Skip to main content

Full text of "American"

See other formats

Chins egut Hill 



University of Florida Libraries 

The American 

-$i^fr-*K~4>L ^Wje- 


^t^H^/^ULdv^ &L 

Books by Howard Fast 









Edited by Howard Fast 




bt Howard Fast 


Copyright, 1946, by 

All rights reserved, including the 

right to reproduce this book or 

portions thereof in any form. 

First Edition 


/ 1 



Permission granted by The Macmillan Company 

to reprint five stanzas from Vachel Lindsay's 

poem, Bryan, Bryan, Bryan, Bryan, is hereby 

acknowledged by the Author. 


To the Memory of Sam Sloan. 




Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2013 

Where is McKinley, Mark Hanna* s McKinley, 

His slave, his echo, his suit of clothes? 

Gone to join the shadows, with the pomps of that time, 

And the flame of that summer's prairie rose. 

Where is Cleveland whom the Democratic platform 
Read from the party in a glorious hour? 
Gone to join the shadows with pitchfork Tillman, 
And sledgehammer Altgeld who wrecked his power. 

Where is Hanna, bull dog Hanna, 
Low-browed Hanna, who said: "Stand pat"! 
Gone to his place with old Pierpont Morgan. 
Gone somewhere . . . with lean rat Piatt. 

Where is Roosevelt, the young dude cowboy, 
Who hated Bryan, then aped his way? 
Gone to join the shadows with mighty Cromwell 
And tall King Saul, till the Judgment day. 

Where is Altgeld, brave as the truth, 
Whose name the few still say with tears? 
Gone to join the ironies with Old John Brown, 
Whose fame rings loud for a thousand years. 

Nicholas Vachel Lindsay 


Part One 



Part Two 

PAGE 4} 

Part Three 

PAGE 113 

Part Four 


PAGE 177 

Part Five 

PAGE 245 

Part Six 

PAGE 301 

Part Seven 


PAGE 317 

The American 

Part One 

JLhe father was a hard 
man; he was like flint. If he had ever been anything else, 
weak or sentimental or loving or kind, there was no trace 
left now, no trace at all. Between him and the boy, there 
was fear. And when the boy did wrong, or what the father 
conceived to be wrong, there was punishment. You would 
have to have a sheet of paper as long as the Ohio River 
to write down all the hard, bitter things which had left 
their mark on the father, and a little of each of those 
things went into the punishment. The father didn't drink 
—except beer— but anger let things out of him and relieved 
him, the way drink lets things out of some men. And anger 
went into the punishment. 

On the wall in the kitchen, there was a piece of an old 
harness, and when the father got angry, he would walk 
toward it, and the expression on his lined brown face 
would tell the boy all the boy had to know. There was a 
special expression for the boy, a singularity of rage that 
would indicate his guilt as separate from that of his two 
brothers and his three sisters. 

"Come," the father would say. "Come!" 

And the boy would understand. If it were the turn of 
one or another of the others, they might flee or whimper 


or plead; not the boy. For the others, sometimes, the 
mother would plead, although she knew that pleading only 
increased her husband's anger; but she didn't plead for the 
boy, at least not until he cried aloud. 

And that point came. The boy, on his short, solid legs, 
was hard too, and ugly and mean, as the neighbors would 
point out, but the harness strap was heavy, and the father's 
arm could lift a hundred-pound sack of meal at stiff length. 

The father would take down the strap, and the boy 
would walk ahead of him out to the barn, and there was 
something in the boy's walk, each step he took, that added 
fuel to the father's rage. The father would beat him with 
even, merciless strokes, and the boy would grind his pain 
under his teeth. The flesh would seam, welt, and then 
raise up, and then the blood would drive through in pin- 
points. And through the father's brain, down his blood- 
stream, into the nerves and muscles and tendons of his arm 
would come the pain he had suffered, the wrongs he had 
bent to, the injustices of life which had made him what he 
was— and all of them would pour into the harness strap. 

Until it snapped, until the father realized what he was 
doing to his son. Then it was over. Then the punishment 
was through and finished, and the half-naked boy could 
stumble away, and the father could walk stolidly back to 
his house, purged. 


It was not long before the great War Between the States, 
and at that time much of the State of Ohio was still forest 
land, the tall virgin forest which climbs up to the sky, 
making a house where the pillars are eight and twelve feet 


through, where inside there is no underbrush, no saplings, 
nothing but the dead leaves, the wet sod, the moss, and the 
silence. The forest meant something to the boy, who was 
eleven years old, whose name was John Peter Altgeld. He 
was a good worker, but when there was no work for him 
to do, he ran to the forest. People said, "What else could 
you expect, when he looks like a thing from the forest?" 

And that was so. He was nothing at all to look at. His 
hair was black and stiff, and it stood up from his head like 
a bird's nest. His legs were too short. His body was not 
misshapen, nor was it shaped right; looking at it was like 
looking into one of those cheap mirrors which place ob- 
jects just a little out of focus, but so little that you can 
never put your finger on the fault. He had a very slight 
harelip, but it was enough to make speech harder for him 
than for the average child. His jaw was too big; first, you 
thought, this is a child who has never been young, but 
after a while you saw that it was only because his jaw was 
too big, giving him an older and more melancholy look 
than he was entitled to. His blue eyes were pleasant, but 
with the rest of him the way it was, who went so far as to 
examine his eyes? The more so since he hardly ever looked 
straight at you. 

It was no wonder that he went into the forest. 

But what he found in the forest was his business, and 
he didn't have to talk about it. The farm was work and 
hate, from before the sun rose until the sun set; maybe 
there were farms where it was different, he didn't know; 
maybe there were poorer people than his family, he didn't 
know that either. His thoughts were simple, uncompli- 
cated. The forest was in opposition to the farm; it was 
peaceful, and whatever was there left him alone. There 
were toads and small, scampering animals in the forest; 



they did him no harm. There was a brook in the forest, 
and he walked up and down in the bed of the brook. 

The road went away into the forest, straight as an arrow 
down the side of the section. In the summertime, when 
they let him go to school, he went down that road to the 
district schoolhouse. He didn't go eagerly; they only let 
him go in the summertime, and that was all right with 
him. Those who were educated were natural enemies of 
his father, but they were not friends of his. For one thing, 
they spoke a different tongue; they spoke the Yankee 
tongue, which they made him learn, laughing at his gut- 
tural German speech. The schoolmaster whipped him with 
a birch rod, and the lessons made his head ache. But going 
to the school gave him a concept of the road, which took 
its deep-rutted course through the forest to the log lesson 
house, and then beyond that point over hill and dale into 
the blue dream of anywhere. So when he was in the forest, 
he had the road within easy reach, and he knew a time 
would come when he would go down that road with no 
coming back. 

When he followed the brook through the forest, step- 
ping catlike among the slippery rocks, he eventually came 
to the place where it emerged and ran across the cleared 
lands of Ichabod Morrison, the Yankee farmer who was a 
neighbor of theirs. Morrison had a swarm of children who 
were all towheaded, and although the boy, John Peter, 
didn't play with them, he liked to watch them from the 
edge of the forest and create a life for them that was fine 
and gentle, although in actuality it was none so different 
from his own. There was one little girl called Lulubelle, 
who he thought was the most beautiful creature on earth, 
and after he learned to read a little, he identified her with 
the princess in his reader. His imagination, struggling 



through the sterility of the few concepts open to him, 
found a place for her in the wonderful life he would have 
some day. But his concepts were few, and his idea of a 
wonderful life was mostly negative—not to be beaten, not 
to be laughed at, not to be hungry. 

In the winter, however, the refuge of the forest was 
denied to him. Cold and snow made it a forbidding place 
—and the days were very short. Also, there was work for 
him; there was always work for him. 


The family moved to a bigger farm, a hundred and forty 
acres, and the father starved, scraped, haggled, pawned, 
and somehow bought the place and bought with it an 
enormous mortgage. There was one whole night when the 
father was a human being, smiling, even singing a little, 
and remembering what it meant to have a place like this 
in the old country, for a peasant and the son of a peasant 
and the grandson of a peasant. Mulled beer and a pudding 
made an occasion of it, and the mother wept with pride. 
The boy, John Peter, had been an infant of only a few 
months when they came to this new country from the old 
one, but he had a link of language, legend, and custom 
with the old country, and from what the father said, he 
surmised that it was a place one was glad to leave yet 
also glad to remember, puzzling as that contradiction 
might be. Yet the separation of old country from new 
country was never really clear, for always around them 
were German families, Norwegian families, Bohemian and 
Lithuanian families, as well as those stranger folk called 
Yankees. And as for coming to this particular place, Ohio, 
well, the Yankees were not long here either; only the 


Indians, the mysterious red folk, who were sometimes dirty 
and homeless bums in towns and sometimes romantic 
bands passing out of the forest and into it, were native to 
this region, old to it, accepting it, and not having to struggle 
against it and break their hearts, as the Yankees and the 
others did. 

But on this night of celebration, which went with the 
acquiring of the new farm, there was no talk of heartbreak. 
The father told stories about the old country, and John 
Peter, who had never heard him tell stories before, listened 
with open eyes and open mouth. There was a broad world, 
and as each piece of it became a little more apparent, he 
tried to fit it into place in his head, and that way dreams 
came, imagination and longing and hunger for the half 
formless; a mental change that went along with the physi- 
cal change in him, the change which brought the budding 
hair, the swelling glands, the blood coursing, the nervous, 
wonderful restlessness that made despair and hope play on 
him like a bow on the chords of a riddle. 

Change was the new theme motif; the ugly became 
beautiful, as so many of the tales he read told him. The 
impossible became possible, as this new farm proved, in 
spite of the broken siding house they inherited, the stump- 
filled fields, the rotten log barns. His old life where he ran 
to the forest for refuge was no more; refuge was in the new 
possibilities; his wirelike hair would be soft and curly; his 
body would become slim and long and graceful. Even the 
father, whose anger was so terrible, was not angry, not even 
granite-like this one night. 

So he listened to the father's tales of what was and what 
would be. 




It was not many weeks before the boy realized that the 
father had exchanged an old master for a new one, and 
that the rapaciousness of this new master, one hundred 
and forty acres of land, could not and would not be satis- 
fied. If they had worked before, they worked twice as hard 
now, and "mortgage" became a personalized monster in 
the boy's mind. Instead of a pig being killed for food, it 
went to the market; mortgage explained that. Mortgage 
took the potatoes away, and they ate turnips. Mortgage 
made the father harder and more bitter than he had ever 
been. When the harness strap came down on the boy's 
back, it was mortgage that made it quiver with additional 

In the old place, the boy worked only for the father, and 
since there was not enough work to fill all his time, and 
certain days when there was almost no work, he had a little 
time to himself always, and sometimes hours and hours to 
play, to wander alone, to go to school. But now he was 
thirteen years old, and the father said that was too old for 
school and too old for idleness. What the boy had done, 
his brothers and sisters would do; the father worked twice 
as hard, if such a thing were possible— to a degree where 
the neighbors said, "The devil has him." And the boy was 
hired out to work. First on this place and then on the 
other. "Strong as a man," the father said. "He can do a 
man's work." So the boy went one day to the Bjornsons', 
and the next to the Schwabs', and the next to Joneses' 
place, and then maybe back to Bjornsons', or three days at 
one place and five at another, or half a day's work in the 
forenoon with three miles to walk, and then a five-mile 


walk to the next place in the same day, to get more work 

He became a work-weary, dulled, and senseless animal. 
He fell into bed at night and woke in the morning with 
all his bones aching. "Growing pains," his mother said. 
"He should rest a little." But the father was like a man 
insane when the thought of sickness was suggested. Every- 
thing could be fought but this. Suppose he himself were 
to fall sick, or to break an arm or a leg, or crush a hand, 
the sort of accident which is never far away in heavy man- 
ual work, just suppose, just realize that would be the end 
of everything; the farm would go, mortgage and taxes 
would smash down, the wife and children would starve- 
then don't speak of it. "The boy has growing pains, the 
boy is lazy. You spare the rod and spoil the child. The boy 
brings home three dollars a week." 

John Peter worked. He pitched hay. He churned butter. 
He shoveled manure. For a thousand years, his ancestors 
had done such work, and those who were weak or prey to 
disease died; he was strong. He walked twenty miles in one 
day, and if it rained, he had growing pains. And inside of 
him, the glands matured, the heavy juices ran through his 
body, and there came a day when he raised a hand to stop 
the harness strap, a hand that held his father's wrist with 
power and determination, while the hate sparked out of 


"Then don't beat me," the boy said. "Then don't beat 
me again. I been beat enough, I tell you." In English this. 

In German, his father said, "Speak my tongue!" 

"This is mine. Don't beat me." 

"Speak my tongue!" 

"This is mine!" 



The wrist tore loose; the father was still stronger. Though 
he fought back, the father beat him. "A devil," the father 
said. "A devil from hell." 

After that, the boy knew he would go away. What bonds 
there were had worn thin. He would go away and never 
come back. The world outside was a fearful place, but 
nothing it held could be more fearful than the wild, in- 
human struggle that the father had to make for this brood 
to live. 

Now he faced his father differently, and that was a part of 
the difference in him, of his own subjective realization of 
that difference. He thought of himself now as "Pete." Pete 
was an American word. I am Pete, I am going away, he 
would think to himself, and then tell his father so. 

"Where will you go?" 

"I'll go, I'll go, you'll see." 

"You'll go? Well, you'll go out and starve. So you think 
you're a man now. Go ahead then." 

Time went by without his going, because the threat of j 
the world was so great a threat, because the unknown was 
so tremendous, stretching away from the farm on every 
hand, with a thousand facets of suggestion and only one or! 
two facets of actuality. But his dreams were more complex, 
more stirring, richer as he reached the age of thirteen, 
fourteen, fifteen. A ferment was in the nation, and it. 
stirred every corner, even the remotest rural corner of 
Ohio. The ferment was war, and the catalyst was old Abe 
Lincoln who had come from somewhere in these very 
parts. News which came to the backwash farm where Pete 
Altgeld lived was none too clear; no newspapers reached 



the farm, except, very occasionally, a German language 
paper, and by word of mouth the war appeared as confus- 
ing as wars have always appeared to such earthbound folk. 
A villain's name was Jeff Davis, and already there was a 
song about him, about hanging him high on a sour apple 
tree, and down along the river were strange people called 
"Abolitionists," and they were on the side of the black 
men, the slaves, and that also was somehow bound into the 
war. On the farms where he worked Pete heard sung, "Old 
Union of glory, Let's die for her, boys"; and he sang the 
words to the fine, lilting tune, and even felt something 
curiously blood-stirring as he sang it; yet he had only the 
haziest notion of what the Union was, and the word glory 
meant absolutely nothing to him, so primitive and simple 
was his knowledge of English, a work-knowledge, a field- 
and-barn knowledge. 

For the most part, those people for whom he worked 
were against the war; they had come from one place or 
another in the old country, and they had an ancient folk- 
knowledge of war, which Pete somehow shared. It was a 
visitation, like the plague or the pox, and though they 
were used in it, it never concerned them. Once, however, 
when Pete drove to town with Bjornson, there was a patri- 
otic rally on the main street of Little Washington. A unit 
of the 33rd Ohio National Guard was preparing to march 
off to the war. They stood in the dusty street, fourteen of 
them lined up very straight, blue uniforms, red sashes, 
while old Meyerburg, who kept the feed store, addressed 
the crowd in German. Then Stacy, the justice of the peace, 
spoke in English, and then old Fritz Anderson, veteran of 
the Revolution, white-bearded and just a little drunk, told 
about the Battle of Bunker Hill. As the number of Revo- 
lutionary veterans narrowed, the number of battles in 



which the remaining had participated increased, and by 
now Anderson's lexicon included just about every engage- 
ment, large or small. 

Peter asked Bjornson what was the Revolution, and 
Bjornson, on not too certain ground, said it was a war like 
this one, but a long time ago. A drum began to play, a long 
roll, a short roll, and then a rat-a-tat-tat, over and over. 
The National Guard began to march, and some of them 
picked up a tune, "Susybell was from Kentucky, a loose- 
limbed gal an' durn unlucky." Pete leaped from the wagon 
and ran after them, Bjornson shouting, "Hey, Pete, hey, 
where you going?" 

Asking the soldiers, "How old you got to be? How old 
you got to be?" Pete kept pace with them, until Bjornson 
grabbed him by the shirt and said, "This I'll tell your 

"How old you got to be?" 

The soldiers, most of them freckled farm boys, well| 
under twenty, grinned at Pete and advised him, "To helK 
with the old Dutchman. Come along, kid." 

And though he drove back to the farm with Bjornson, 
the words echoed and reechoed, "Come along, kid, come 
along, kid, come along, kid"; the quality of warmth which 
had accompanied the offhand phrase magnifying itself more 
and more, developing a richness like old wine, "Come 
along, kid," one comrade to another, "Come along." 
Nothing like that had ever been said to him before; nothing 
like that had ever happened before. 


"I'm going to war," he told the father. 

He was not given to many words; sometimes, in a week, 



he spoke to the father only once or twice, to the mother no 
more, and only a little more to his brothers and sisters. 

"Yes," the father said. "You stay here. The work—" 

"I'm going to war," Pete said. "To war. That's all. I 
made up my mind— I'm going." 

And seeing that he meant it, that in his words there was 
neither doubt nor hesitation nor indecision, the father 
measured his son, as for the first time and very likely the 
first time, measured him up and down and sidewise too, 
the short legs, the hard muscles, the ugly face, the brush 
hair, and the split lip; and the son's eyes met the father's 
in return appraisal, telling him— No more beatings. I am 
a man, you hear me, a man. Then the father said: 

"When you go, you go. All right. Until you go, you do 
your work. You work, you hear me?" 

"I hear you," Pete said. 

So for another year, he bided his time and worked; it 
did not occur to him that the war might be over, for by 
now war was a natural condition of the land, just as rain 
was and snow was. Inside his head, a dream developed, and 
for the first time he knew a curiosity for his country. The 
war was in the south, and he would ask questions concern- 
ing the south, or sing Dixie to himself, "Look away, look 
away, look away down south in Dixie," where there 
was no summer, no winter, only balm and blue skies 
and pink pelicans. There were beautiful women, and who 
knew what might not happen to a soldier? The rhythm of 
his body was different now, and the things he had wanted 
once were nothing to the fires that began to consume him. 
It affected his work; he would pause in the middle of a job, 
slow down, do things wrong until complaints came back 
to the father: 

"That boy of yours, his head is empty." 



But the father didn't beat him; it was understood that a 
beating would mean a struggle, and the struggle would 
have only one outcome. Instead, the father warned him: 

"The neighbors call you a fool." 

"Then I'm a fool." 

"A halfwit, you hear me, a person with only part of his 

"All right." 

"The shame is mine," the father reminded him. "But 
you do your work, do you hear me?" 

In English, Pete answered, "I hear you, sure." 

For a whole year Pete waited, bided his time, asked 
questions, gleaned information, became crafty and sly about 
the ways of warfare. To just go out and become a soldier 
was not so simple; it could be done, but it was a compli- 
cated procedure, and Pete learned that those who did it 
were fools. A smart man sold himself into the National 
Guard. Group by group, the militia were being called up 
as volunteers, and for every volunteer, the county paid a 
bonus of one hundred dollars. In this anti-war region, 
there was an active business done in substitutions, for a 
hundred dollars might be a fortune to one man, and yet 
to another nothing as compared with the hardships of war. 
Thus, when talk became current that the 48th Regiment 
of the National Guard was being formed, Pete hunted up 
a militiaman whose name had been given him. A little 
talk, a signature on a piece of paper, and the deal was con- 
cluded whereby the boy became a soldier of the Republic 
and a hundred dollars richer all in one moment. Pete re- 
turned to his home, frightened, freed and bound at the 
same time, breathless with the wonder of what he had 
accomplished by his own will, his own forethought, his own 
planning, and wealthy by the hundred dollars he clutched 



in his hand. He returned home and told the father, "Well, 
I done it, I became a soldier," and then found the old fear 
returning as anger flowed into his father's face, mottling 
it, purpling it, making the muscles bulge and the veins 
stand out. Fear made him thrust out his clenched hand, 
and the greenbacks unbent themselves like a flower bloom- 
ing, blossomed and fell to the floor, like a contrived scene 
in a bad play. And both he and his father stared at the 
money until the old man said: 

"Where? How?" 

They were the bereaved, father and son, the world mov- 
ing and changing, positions reversing, for here was more 
money in actual dollars than either of them had known, 
turning, curiously, their anger and resentment and fear 
into the blocked and tired emotions of the wholly frus- 
trated. The father knew that his son would go away, and 
the son knew it too, although now, this moment, the father 
was no longer an enemy, no longer a dreadful foe, but 
only a work-tired, life-tired, aging peasant in a dirty shirt 
and dirty jeans. And the barefooted, sunburnt boy, shock- 
haired and ugly, was suddenly the father's son, the first- 
born, the lifeblood, and the only realization of immortality 
a man has or can hope for. The boy bent, gathered the 
money, and said simply: 


Then he gave it to his father, who took it, held it a 
moment, and counted it, counted it twice. One hundred 
dollars. He called the mother, who came, and then the 
brothers and sisters came. 

"A hundred dollars," the father said. 

"A hundred dollars," the others said. 

The mother sobbed, and the father muttered, knowing 



that his words sold his son into bondage, "You will need 
money to be a soldier." 

"I need nothing," Pete answered, speaking in his father's 
tongue, taking victory and admitting defeat. 

"A hundred dollars," the mother said, for her thoughts 
were so tumultuous that no other phrase could even ap- 
proach them. 

"You need a little money." 

"Nothing." He was free; didn't they understand that? 

"But ten dollars," the father said, offering it, a gesture, 
the first such gesture in the boy's life. What matter how 
the money came? It was the father's now, and he was giving 
his son ten dollars. The boy took it. 


At a quartermaster's depot they were given uniforms, 
blankets, messkits, canteens, guns, and ammunition. Pete 
would see war, some day, become a different thing from 
this haphazard, hit-or-miss method. He would see other 
things too. When the blue uniforms fell to pieces after a 
few months' wear, he would have something to remember 
that eventually would work itself into a part of a great 
pattern, as when a gun blew up in a soldier's face, or a 
canteen poisoned the water, or leather shoes turned into 
paper and woolen blankets into shoddy. But now it was 
all wonderful, and by virtue of the sovereign State of Ohio, 
he was garbed as never before. It was true that the uniform 
was several sizes too large, and it was also true that on the 
first day the guns were issued, one of them went off and 
blew a tall, slow-spoken, and good-natured young volun- 
teer out of this world, but those were minor incidents in 
the first romance he had ever known. How could it com- 



pare with the major fact that for once in his life he was 
treated as a man among men, sharing their doubts and 
uncertainties, sharing their surprises and excitements, not 
so ugly as he had been considered once; for in this amazing 
variety of the short, the tall, the thin, the fat, the gainly, 
and the ungainly, his own ugliness was a smaller factor 
than it had ever been before. He rode on a train for the 
first time in his life, but so did half the regiment for the 
first time in their lives. For the first time in his memory he 
was out of the State of Ohio, but that was also the case with 
most of the regiment, excepting the few hard-bitten vet- 
erans, non-commissioned officers mostly, contemptuous of 
these green recruits, warning them this was not war, this 
frolic from the supply depot to the training center; but 
what use was it for a veteran to describe a rebel when they 
knew so well that Johnny Reb was a dirty, yellow, slinking 
coward who would run away the first time a shot was fired? 
Anyway, the war was almost over; they would add the 
finishing touch and they would do it gloriously. No one 
could tell them different. So they swaggered on the train 
and boasted and chewed tobacco, many of them for the 
first time, and got sick, and threw out their chests proudly 
at local stations where crowds turned out to receive them, 
until the veterans could only say, "Hayseeds, hayseeds, Jesus 
God Almighty, what stinking lousy hayseeds." But they 
only grew more proud of themselves, roaring, "We are 
coming, Father Abraham—" and Pete added his voice to 

But a hundred miles from Washington, the situation 
changed. They were turned out of the cars into a pouring 
rain at a little wayside station, and now the non-coms had 
their revenge, driving them into line, snapping and snarl- 



ing at them, and there in the rain they stood for two full 
hours, waiting for the colonel. 

The colonel was a small, dry, bearded man, who drove 
up in a chaise, chewed an unlit cigar, and stared at his 
regiment long and coldly, stared at the home-guard officers 
who grinned at him and then suddenly stopped grinning. 
The colonel had been wounded three times, the last time 
when his battered line of Ohio Abolition Volunteers had 
been wiped out at Shell Mound. Now he called for Cap- 
tain Frank, who came on the double and saluted smartly. 

"We have twenty-two miles to march before we make 
camp," the colonel said. 

"But it's getting on to night, sir, and it's raining." 

"I saw that it was raining." 

"But—" Then the captain nodded and turned away. 
Then he remembered, halted, turned once more, and 


They marched through Washington, but they were not 
proud any more. Their uniforms were faded and dusty, 
and their shoes crunched ankle-deep in the June mud. 
Two weeks of training had convinced both them and their 
colonel that they would not be soldiers, yet they had learned 
how to load their rifles, how to fire in unison in the same 
general direction, and not to sneer at that legendary figure, 
Johnny Reb. They had learned too to make camp and 
break camp, and they were beginning to learn how to 
march. In Washington, they were just another regiment 
passing through, and there was an endless stream of such 
regiments, and in the end they all came back, limping, 
decimated, on litters and in wagons— or sometimes they did 



not come back at all and they would be canceled, as it was 
termed, since you can't reconstitute a regiment out of two 
or three survivors, not when you're in a hurry, not when 
the situation is as desperate as it was then, in the summer 
of 1864, so desperate that this bedraggled line of Ohio farm 
boys was ordered to the front, as the colonel said, "To 

"To murder, if you think of it that way," the general 

"With two weeks of training? They're not troops, they're 

"They're men, aren't they?" 

"Then it's murder." 

"If you want to call it murder, call it murder," the 
general agreed. 

Of this, only rumors came to Pete; he knew that they 
were marching south, and already he had seen more of the 
world than he had ever dreamed existed. He had seen great 
cities, and he had seen the nation's capital. And the edge 
had gone; fear came into his heart and mind, and into his 
legs too, the whole fabric of him, fear that hung like a pall 
over the nation, so great was the slaughter, so constant, so 
fruitless. Yet he was harder than he had any right to be at 
the age of sixteen, harder than the ten or twelve who had 
run away already out of homesickness and terror, harder 
than the one who was caught, brought back, and hanged 
before parade ranks. Sergeant Jerry O'Day said he had the 
makings of a soldier, and some of the men shared chewing 
tobacco and liquor with him, and he was strong as a young 
horse, used to going barefoot, so that when the paper soles 
of his shoes wore through, his feet did not bleed, but only 
became tougher than before. If not for the fear, if not for 
the sense of disaster which increased constantly as they 



moved south, translating itself into confusion, hesitation, 
marching and countermarching, he would have been rea- 
sonably happy. He had enough tb ea«t, and marching was 
not as hard as work. They no longer sang, it was true, but 
at night, in bivouac under the summer stars, he had men 
around him who were his comrades; he had never known 
that before. There was talk, and he loved talk, loved to 
listen to it, to the sound of words, to the soft, lazy Ameri- 
can accents, and to the wonderful commonplace of: 

"God, I'm tired." 

"Sonovabitch, I ain't going to have no feet left, just wear 
them down to the ankles and polish the bones." 

"Tell you something, Jed, you wear them down to the 
ankles and sure enough they'll send you home." 

"You ain't going home a long time, soldier." 

"Going to write a letter to Johnny Reb." 


"Going to pacify us both— just meet and shake hands." 

"Just shake, stranger, huh?" 

"That's right." 

"And he puts a lead in your belly, huh?" 

"That's right." 

Every night there was such talk, so much of it. Pete didn't 
want to be shot— he heard terrible tales of men who were 
shot; but he didn't want to give up this life either. 

He was not a demanding person; he complained far less 
than the average soldier, and he was so grateful for small 
favors that the men in his company came to have a real 
affection for him; if they wanted something done, the kid 
would do it. If they put turtle eggs or live frogs into his 
pack, the kid grinned as if he really enjoyed it. One day, 
bivouacked outside of a little town, four or five went to see 
a prostitute, taking Pete with them, he who had never even 



kissed a girl or spoken to one outside of necessary do or 
don't words, outside of his own sisters, and then they 
laughed at his fright and shame. But the shame passed, and 
his dreams turned more and more into the three dimen- 
sions of life. The force inside of him throbbed so hard and 
so wildly sometimes that once, when asked what he was 
going to do after the war, he answered: 

"Everything. Everything." 

Speech, which had been such a halting, difficult thing 
for him, came more readily, and he gained a sense of confi- 
dence and power from the black fuzz that began to cover 
his cheeks, thinking that some day this would be a full fine 
beard, covering his split lip, covering his large chin. Change 
fermented in him, and he groped for ideas that would 
have never started in him only a few months ago. A soldier 
from Cleveland, who had been a parson before the war, 
gave him a novel to read, The Redemption of Blackfist 
Megee, and as he struggled through it, only half under- 
standing it yet losing himself in its incredible vulgarity, 
still another horizon opened. And he sat one night by the 
fire, listening to a furious argument between an Abolition- 
ist and a blackbaiter, taking from the talk, for the first 
time, a whole impression of the war in which he was in- 
volved as one minute and unimportant unit. Yet from this 
came the beginnings of consciousness concerning many 
things, four million black slaves, a Union that had grown 
from the blood and suffering of men, abstract principles of 
right and wrong, natural rights, and many other half- 
formed ideas which set his head to spinning and aching, 
and made him partly crazy at the thought of how full and 
large and incredible the world was. 




Yet fear and confusion predominated, and he could make 
no real pattern either from the war or his concern with it. 
A great battle was going on across the James River, and 
although they approached it for crossing four times, each 
time they turned back. He heard that an argument was 
going on between their own officers and headquarters, as 
to whether they were ready for battle; certainly, the lines 
of wounded coming back across the river told of the need 
for them, raw as they were, and the fact that their own 
officers held them in such contempt didn't add to morale. 
As a reaction, they took to boasting, and once, when a 
report came through that they would be sent west into 
Kentucky to work on a railroad as service troops, the mood 
of the men turned black and savage, and they spoke of a 
strike. It was the first time Pete had ever heard the word 
mentioned, and it was more puzzling to him than the de- 
sire of his comrades to see action, for he too felt something 
of the growing drive that impelled them to fulfill them- 
selves or die. 

The nearest they came to battle was when a detachment 
of Rebel cavalry forded the river one dark night and struck 
a savage, slashing blow at the reserve's flank. If the blow 
had been followed in force, the whole of the Ohio and 
Illinois reserve might have been routed, and temporarily 
at least the course of the war changed; but the Rebels sent 
over only a few companies and the raid burned up and 
died away like a quick brush fire. But the time it lasted 
was the wildest, strangest few hours in Pete's life— turned 
out of bed half naked into the night by shots and trumpet 
call, men fumbling for guns, bayonets, and outside in the 



moonless camp woeful confusion, random shots, shouting, 
and then finally panic. It surprised Pete that he was not 
wholly a part of the panic, that when several hundred men 
ran helplessly in whatever direction they thought least 
dangerous, he stayed outside his tent until a bugle called 
him into ranks, then marched under directions of his ser- 
geant down to the river and kept his station there all night 

He might have taken great pride in the fact that he was 
not a worse soldier than most, but the next day he came 
down with fever, and both pride and confidence disap- 
peared in a malarial oven. For two days he lay in his damp 
tent, shivering, pleading for blankets to keep himself warm, 
while his brief glory died away, while his brief manhood 
changed itself into the adolescent whimpering of a half- 
grown boy. During much of that time, the tall parson who 
had given him the book sat beside him and begged him to 
prepare himself to leave this world and enter the next; but 
Pete's good nature had gone, and he snarled back like a 
cornered animal. The sergeant tried to find a doctor for 
him, but when two days had passed with no hope of getting 
a medical man, they gave it up and carried him by litter to 
the nearest field hospital. 

Afterward, there were two reasons for his not remem- 
bering the days in the field hospital any too well; for one 
thing, much of the time he had a raging fever; for another, 
the things he saw at the field hospital, in between his spells 
of delirium, were not good to remember. When he was 
conscious and clearheaded, he saw them bringing in the 
battle cases from the south, men in blood-soaked bandages, 
men without hands and without feet, men who screamed 
with pain, and men who wept. The doctors, in their filthy, 
bloodstained aprons, reminded him of the farmers at home 



when hog-killing time came, and once, when the man next 
to him died of a hemorrhage, blood spilling from his lips 
all over the sheet and bed, and lay all night beside him, a 
corpse, the hard thing inside of Pete broke, shattered en- 
tirely, and let him weep the way he had never wept before. 

His delirium was to be preferred, for then he went back 
to the forest where all was still, and the boughs overhead 
a high roof, and the soft south wind humming way up 
above, and there was not one girl with golden hair but a 
thousand, and all the mingled images of his dreams came 
together into splendid structures. 

After two weeks, he was pronounced cured and told to 
go and join his regiment again. 


For Pete, the war was as permanent a condition of life as 
any he could imagine. It seemed to him sometimes that 
there was never a time when there had not been a war, nor 
did he speculate a great deal on what would become of him 
when the war was done. He had not written home because 
there was no one there he desired to hear from, and he had 
never received a letter from home. Thus, when it came to 
an end so suddenly, his regiment demobilized and sent 
home, he could not react the way most of the men did, 
whooping, shouting, paying fantastic sums for bad liquor. 
What a war, what a war! No real battles, none of the stuff 
like Gettysburg or The Wilderness, none of that, but still 
they were soldiers, and that was something for a man to 
look back on. It was not something for Pete to look back 
on. Marching north to Washington, he was silent in the 
ranks of singing, happy men— "Farewell, mother, you may 
never press me to your heart again; But oh, you'll not for- 



get me mother, if I'm numbered with the slain"— derisive 
and contemptuous; but he was silent, facing not the in- 
verted joy of his comrades, but the inverted tragedy of his 
own rejection from the only good life he had known. 


The farm was different, the people different. He had come 
home, not out of deep desire, but like an animal who 
knows only one burrow. He had come home in a uniform, 
and he stood among his family as a stranger, looking at 
his brothers and sisters as if he had not seen them before, 
looking at the worn woman who was his mother, at the 
father. The very phrase and threat and anger of fatherhood 
was gone; old Altgeld was a man no taller than Pete, no 
stronger. He watched his son almost with apprehension, 
and the mother showed plainly how much she wanted to 
please. She smiled and kissed him; she even cried a little. 
This son was not to be beaten with a harness strap; he had 
seen the world and the enemy, and he had made his com- 
pact with the mysterious warlords. As peasants, with the 
peasant tradition of father and grandfather and twenty 
generations before that, they accepted the separation; actu- 
ally, they had not expected the son to come back, but he 
was back now and he was a stranger to them and so was to 
be suspected and feared, even though tears had flowed. 
Tears must flow; he was blood of their blood and flesh 
of their flesh. 

To his brothers and sisters, he was also a hero, a man 
who had been to the great and bloody war and seen the 
terrible face of Johnny Reb. They were prepared to ad- 
mire him, to grant him leadership, to listen to his tales of 
glory, and even to like him— but he threw them off. They 



remembered that he was sullen once, and he was not too 
different now. He told no tales. When pressed: 
"Did you fight?" 


"Kill anyone?" 


"Seen Jeff Davis?" 


Just that way, and he lost them; having almost had them, 
he found himself cut off, and after a week or two of farm 
work, work never so hard as he had done once, he knew 
that he must go away, and told his father that. 

"Where do you go?" the father asked him. 

He had worked out a plan. He knew something now; 
if they thought he was a piece of driftwood only a war 
could claim, he would show them different. He could read 
and write English, and he could do sums, simple sums, 
it is true, but a beginning. He was going to be educated, 
and some day he would come back here, not as a soldier 
from the wars, but as a lord and master. He told his father 
that he was going to the school at Mansfield. 

"School," the father said, not as he would have said it 
once, but trying to grasp the word, feel it, relate it. "School 
is for the rich, for the Duke's son or the son of the mer- 
chant—" In his own tongue, he fell into references from 
the old country, and his German took on a whining, bitter 
accent. "School is not for a worker, not for a farmer, not 
for us. Were you born with silk stockings, or did you get 
these damned notions from your companions at war? Are 
you a worthless loafer now that the army has sent you back 
to take the bread from the ground once more, the way our 
kind should?" 

"Maybe I am, I don't know," Pete said. 



"Then go back to work." 

He knew there was no use talking about it, no use arguing 
it. Pick up and go off, yet he was old enough to know that 
the world isn't a mother to men. He had strength to sell 
for food and drink, yet he had never sold it as a free agent, 
without even a burrow to crawl back to. When he left the 
farm this time, there would be no returning. His mother 
begged him, "We are old folks, your father means no harm. 
So stay here." When they pressed him, he felt an anger that 
was unlike anything else; he burst out. He left without 
even saying goodby. 


Though the school was free, it took away his working time. 
Hours he could have sold at wages had to be put into 
study, and still he had to have a place to sleep and some- 
thing to eat. With two other boys, he found a miserable 
little room over the Mansfield tannery. It stank like a 
chemical vat; it was hot in the summer, cold in the winter. 
There were no beds; they slept on the floor, sharing a few 
old horse blankets. 

They ate what they could get when they could get it, 
scraps from the butcher, cooked meal, stale bread. If Pete 
earned three dollars a week, he could live, but three dol- 
lars was a goal, not a regular achievement. School was work 
too; he didn't learn quickly; it took him ten hours a day 
to keep up with the normal progress of a boy three years 
younger than he. He was big and ungainly and a dolt, a 
man back from war sitting in a schoolhouse, and not bright; 
he heard that expression used about him many times, not 
bright. A sense of himself returned; here was not the 



struggle of an army in the field; they looked at him, and 
again he realized fully his ugliness, his harelip, robbing 
himself of any assurance he might have had. Even the two 
boys he lived with didn't trust him; they would talk in 
whispers, apart from him, and sometimes they would stare 
at him as if they had never seen him before. He had to 
hack his way through the basic mysteries of multiplication, 
subtraction, division, and if he dared to ask a question, he 
would find the whole class laughing at him. The teacher 
asked him once: 

"Are you sure this is the place for you, John?" 
Inwardly, he cursed and fumed at the sleepy, smug Ohio 
town. "Get out again," he told himself. There was some- 
thing wrong, something woefully wrong about the inside 
and the outside of himself; he put it to himself that way. 
Inside him, nothing was impossible; he was sure few people 
dreamed his dreams; inside, he was glib, assured; he made 
speeches mentally and talked fluently and intelligently. He 
read a story about Thomas Jefferson and thereafter de- 
voured everything that he could lay hands on which in any 
way concerned the man, but when he tried to translate 
his wonderful discovery of democracy into speech in the 
classroom, the words came forth distorted and wrongly 
accented, and his thoughts crumpled in a maze of laughter. 
And with that, he had to keep himself alive. He had to 
earn at least three dollars a week. He loaded carts, ran 
errands, cleaned outhouses, forced himself awake in the 
middle of the night to help clean out the tannery. But that 
made for only a few pennies here and there. "Bad times," 
they told him, and paid him five cents for an hour's work. 
Once, when he hadn't eaten for three days, his mother came 
in from the farm with a basket of food, and though he ate 

2 7 


it and would eat it again, he resented her, offered her no 
word of thanks. 

He came to understand what he wanted. He wanted to 
be a teacher. He wanted to stop being a work-beast and 
live in that other life he saw all around him, where people 
wore decent clothes and ate enough and seemed so happy, 
where small children had more learning than he did. A 
teacher was paid over twenty dollars a month, and a teacher 
didn't have to work the way he did. A teacher walked 
down the street and he had the respect of the community. 
Well, it was better to know what he wanted to do; the 
weariness had a purpose, and there was a certain insanity 
now in his driving toward an end. In a fashion, he became 
happier than he had ever been; he was creating for himself 
a code and a philosophy of opportunity and advancement 
by hard work. He would show them that he could work 
harder than the next man. 

A year passed, and he was still alive; he had lost some 
weight and been sick twice, but he was alive, and he had 
schooling. He walked to Lexington and called on a Mr. 
Gailey, who ran a school for the instruction of the teaching 
profession. He was not a desirable contact for Mr. Gailey; 
he was not well dressed; but he talked for three hours 
about why he must be a teacher, why Mr. Gailey must give 
him a chance, and how he would pay back every penny of 
it afterward, even if it took him all his life. He sat crouched 
over, talking and pleading and even threatening, a fire in 
his eyes that suggested to the instructor that this farm boy 
was not quite sane; but there was a real need for teachers, 
and an even greater need for some who could speak both 
German and English. Gailey agreed to give him a chance. 



So there are no gates closed to a man with talent; he had 
always known what was inside of him, and at nineteen 
he was a teacher at a salary of thirty-five dollars a month. 
The people round and about said, "You wouldn't have 
thought it about Altgeld's boy, but it just goes to show 
that you can't judge a man by how he looks." He bought 
a black broadcloth suit out of his first month's pay, he cut 
his hair short, and a mustache was beginning to cover his 
split lip. He affected a thin cane, the hallmark of a teacher, 
and when he performed his first thrashing, he kept telling 
himself, "Hard work and guts. What did I come from— 
nothing. So a beating doesn't hurt." When he walked down 
the streets of Woodville, people said hello to him, and 
whenever he entered the Woodville School, his first ap- 
pointment, he had a fine, proud feeling of identification. 
The students disliked him, but that was a matter of course 
with every teacher, and if he had any doubts about the 
rigid mechanics of what he taught, he never allowed them 
to trouble him greatly. Education was like a god; he read 
many books, and each time he finished one, he felt like a 
man who has come from profound worship. He was in- 
vited to tea by the Misses Carteret, the maiden sisters who 
were one of the town's best families and the bulwark of 
culture in Woodville, and though for a while he was made 
speechless by the sumptuous beauty of their home, the 
overstuffed pieces, the ornate horsehair sofa, the lifelike 
pheasant under a wonderfully wrought glass bell which 
had a china figure of a hunter perched on top of it, the 
delicate lace antimacassars, the Oriental carpet, the crystal 
closet, and the many painted lamps, he was nevertheless 



able to relax after a while and even agree with them that 
Whitman was a rude barbarian, although he had actually 
never heard of Whitman, and hardly knew whether he 
was a general or a local politician. But he had read Lamb's 
Tales from Shakespeare and was able to make a credible 
pretense at knowing the plays, and agreed that the theatre, 
while ungodly, could make a contribution to a select few; 
and he found, in telling some of his experiences from the 
great war, that he could also be amusing, for both the 
sisters and the Methodist minister laughed with real appre- 
ciation. But the fires inside him were not quenched by 
warm tea; as much as he had, still he wanted and lusted. 
He, who had once regarded a girl as the unobtainable, now 
played suit to a pretty little teacher at the school, and, 
rebuffed, thought that he could only die. He couldn't put 
out the fire inside himself; the daughter of Charles Adams, 
who ran the wagon works, was still unobtainable; he 
dreamed of her and set himself new lands to conquer. 

The father and the mother came to him again, now. 
They plucked at umbilical cords, and when he attempted 
to be superior and disdainful, the mother broke down and 
wept, and the father stared embarrassedly at the ground. 
They were peasant folk and their son was a gentleman 
of quality, but they were going to lose the farm unless they 
could lay hands on a little money; they were still in the 
jungle where a man attempts to crawl uphill on hands and 
knees, and he was making thirty-five dollars a month. "All 
right, all right," he said. "Whatever you want, I will give 
it to you." They kissed his hand; they had never dreamed 
that they would father and mother such a son, and it was 
not their fault. "All right, all right," he said. 

Everyone said that now Pete Altgeld would settle down, 
because the boy had quality and drive and perseverance, 



as you could see. If one girl had rebuffed him, another 
went walking with him one evening, down to the edge 
of town, past the lumber yard, and along the winding cow- 
path, talking quickly and vapidly, and it was all so easy; 
but fear followed on that, and like a caged animal his mind 
lurched from side to side, and when he was once again 
invited to the sisters Carteret, there was a musty smell of 
decay he had not noticed before. Anton Schwab, the town 
drunkard and atheist, cornered him one day as he returned 
from the schoolhouse and said, "How is the paragon of 
virtue? ,, 

He wanted to get away; it did no one any good to be 
seen talking to Schwab, and certainly not a schoolmaster, 
but the atheist held onto both his lapels, "Now listen to 
me, Altgeld, because in a little while your blood's going to 
stop running, like the blood of everyone else in this place. 
You got a soul, you understand me? I can say that because 
I don't believe in their Methodist-Baptist- Lutheran God, 
and anyway in a place where there are only two or three 
souls, stretching a point, you can spot them, believe me. 
But you won't have a soul soon; soon you'll have just a 
little hard rock under your shirt and, believe me, I know 
the signs. I used to say, Pete Altgeld, he's a man— tell them 
all to go dirty their own damned outhouses. No— you're 
changing. Maybe you ain't got a soul. Bigots, dirty, lousy 
bigots. What do you teach in that school of yours? I'll tell 
you— lies, lies. Two and two make four, the ultimate truth? 
Lies. And you're becoming a lie yourself, a dirty little 
leering lie. Get away, get away before it's too late. I know. 
I know how quick it's too late." 

He was afraid afterward that someone had seen the 
drunkard talking to him. It gave him new confidence to 
see the moral wreck that Schwab was, unshaven, unclean, 



reeking of liquor. And Schwab was an educated man, a 
man who had had every possible opportunity. What did 
Schwab mean— give up a job for thirty-five dollars a month? 
No, he had worked too hard for this, too hard. Others had 
childhoods; he had none; it was used up and thrown away, 
but at least now he had something. He tried to make a 
refrain of that, now he had something, now he had some- 
thing. But as days passed, weeks and months, the props fell 
away, so gradually that he never noticed, but fell away and 
left him as he had been before, bound in, bound tight, 
hand, foot, and breast. The bonds were different, he began 
to see. This wasn't the castle he had planned for himself; 
he was going to conquer the world, and he had conquered 
the Ladies' Poetry Society. Even the workingmen, standing 
each noon in front of Meyer's saloon with their big cans 
of suds, seemed to be laughing at him. And he was ex- 
pected to marry. He was twenty years old, and there were 
three available girls in town whom it was right and proper 
for him to marry. For all his pay, he had not enough 
money left, with what the farm took now, to support a 
wife, so he would take her back to the father and the farm. 

Again and again, he asked himself, why am I different? 
Am I sick, rotten, cast out? He saw holes where others saw 
things solid. These fine and upright citizens, why didn't 
he worship them properly? What did he want? 

When he left, he knew that he was running away. He 
left without cause or reason, and a hundred different ex- 
planations were brought forth by his family and the towns- 
folk. They talked about him for a time, and then they 
forgot him. In any case, even at his best, he had troubled 
them in some fashion they could not comprehend, nor did 
the town drunkard help by voicing around the opinion 
that Pete Altgeld had gone off to save his soul. 



But he wasn't troubled with his soul; he was like a man 
on a spree, and he stopped thinking. Enough of thinking, 
he told himself. For five years he had studied and thought. 
He had arrayed himself in a black suit and a cane. He 
broke the cane into little pieces now. As he walked along 
the road to Cincinnati, he carried his black coat over his 
arm, but it was hot and the coat was heavy, and finally he 
threw it into the roadside ditch. His black string tie fol- 
lowed the coat. He rolled up his sleeves and bared his 
veined, muscular arms. A teacher! He knew nothing, he 
knew less than nothing! It was a trap, everything a trap, 
back to the farm, the father. Three girls eligible, take your 
choice. He spat in the dust, shouted, leaped up and down, 
and slapped his thighs. 

You had to know how, and if you were wise, you learned. 
He, Pete Altgeld, was wise. Look how nearly he was trapped; 
well, he would never be trapped again. Squeeze fortune, 
he thought; put its neck between your hands and squeeze 
until it screamed mercy. But give no mercy, give no edge. 
The town drunkard was a fool too. Who in hell was he 
to preach sermons? And that was all he did, preach ser- 
mons, even if he had no God to tie his sermons onto. Pete 
Altgeld had more sense than that, more sense. 

He vaulted a fence and collected ripe apples. He bathed 
his hot feet in a placid brook. At night, he curled up in a 
haystack, and watched the shooting stars. You had to watch 
sharp for them, sharp and quick, and then they arched like 
a rocket. He listened to the night-sounds, the call of the 
owl, the croaking of frogs, the bassoon grunt of cows. If he 
was a tramp, all right then, he was a tramp; he wasn't the 



only one. The roads were full of old soldiers. Sometimes 
he walked with them; sometimes he sat around a fire with 
them, toasting a can of stew, and listening to them swap 
tales. And then Cincinnati. In Cincinnati he found work, 
a week in a corncob factory, and then— telling them to go 
to the devil and be damned— another week on the loading 
platforms by the railroad; but no bonds, no chains, no 
shackles. He was a free agent, and when he put his teeth 
into something it would be the right thing. He thought, if 
there was a war again, he'd enlist; but there was no war. 
Then the road. He saw the men in the factories, and for 
him, that was as certain as any slavery. He saw an abortive 
strike in Cincinnati; they were fools if they thought it 
would get them anywhere, he told himself. Stay away from 
chains in the beginning. Keep to the road, that's the way. 
Work when you have to eat. And reading— well, he had 
read only one thing since he left Woodville, a thin volume 
of Thoreau which another tramp had given him. That was 
good, but he had a deep-seated suspicion of books. Stay on 
the road, with the sun in the daytime and the stars at 
night. That was the way. 


He drifted through Indiana and Illinois. He wasn't afraid 
of work, and in that season there was a meal or a dollar 
to be gotten at almost any farm. Actually, he enjoyed 
work; it was the state of his life; he had worked since he 
could remember, but now it had to be work without chains 
and without bonds. Sometimes, at a farm, he would be 
invited to dinner with the family and the hired man; he 
was farm-wise, so he got along, and he was a veteran, which 
was a bond with men he met everywhere, that being before 



public sentiment turned against veterans of the war who 
were out of jobs and labeled them loafers and bums. Some- 
times, for a few hours, he could be near a round-cheeked, 
smiling girl, and knowing that she was his now, for the 
moment, not before and not after, be more at ease than 
with any other of the women he had once known. He got 
a feel of the country too, realizing that the only way to 
know the land is to let it seep into your bones and flesh 
and blood, moving slowly through it, becoming a part of 
the fields and hills and woods. This was the rich, ripe heart 
of America, this black-loam land of the middle states. 

Nor could he escape the intense surge of the country, 
even if he had desired to. He moved west on an almost 
visible tide, and along with him moved thousands and 
hundreds of thousands. Along with him moved the rail- 
roads, the farms, the factories, and families and tribes and 
whole provinces. Sometimes he spoke German, sometimes 
English; his tongue had loosened; movement gave him the 
flavor of speech, and although he didn't know it and would 
have denied it, all the books he had packed into his head 
so mechanically were reasserting themselves, breaking apart 
and coming together, as he needed them, as he wanted 

- Talking to the people, he found something of himself; 
under their surface slowness they were a fierce people, with 
many of the qualities he had known in his father, and 
their reticence was a part of the drive westward, for free- 
dom and bread, which had obsessed them and their fathers. 
But then winter took them into their clapboard shells; 
the fields were gleaned, and the homeless moved to the 
cities. He moved with them, and now, the road turned 
cold, the fruitfulness of the fields a thing of the past, the 
dwellers of the road were demarcated. They were the 



homeless, the disinherited, the men without family or 
land, unemployed workers, veterans, field hands, and those 
others who scavenged, who had never worked and never 
would, and in this latter category were those who had 
turned against life and who preyed on both the farmers 
and the drifting workers. 

It was with them that Pete had to make his break; what 
they were drove him to St. Louis to join the lines of unem- 
ployed. Otherwise, you stole, whored, and went down 
lower and lower. That wasn't for him; he was going to 
win out and stand on top, but even to begin that you had 
to have a place to sleep and food to eat. Only, for each job, 
there were four men, and you had to fight, cut, scramble, 
climb onto the shoulders of a man who was weaker. And 
then, if there was nothing and you had spent your last 
nickel on some beer and free lunch, you cut the price, sold 
yourself cheaper and cheaper as the crying will to live 
became louder. That was how he came to work over the 
stinking sulphur vats for seventy-five cents a day. 

And now there were no songs to sing, no dances to 
dance, just keep alive, keep alive, and on Sunday go to a 
beer garden with twenty-five cents for the only kind of a 
good time you can afford, make eyes at the girls, eat and 
drink slowly, and listen to the steins being stamped in 
unison as the voices chanted out the waltz. But life can't 
cherish and foster itself and grow rosy and bloom on four- 
fifty a week. He was starving by inches. He sank back down 
and became beastlike, and beastlike he watched the milling 
crowds of those who had no jobs and listened to their 
voice, feeling something he had never felt before. 

But then, when it was at its worst, the railroad agents 
came into town, recruiting with torchlight processions and 
bands for anyone who would take up a pick and shovel at 



from three to four dollars a day. Ride to heaven on the 
M.K.&T.! America was going west, and it was a free ride 
for any Yank or Mick or Hunky who had a strong back 
and a weak head. So they proclaimed, with free beer flow- 
ing golden from the broached kegs, and Pete Altgeld 
climbed on the bandwagon to glory. 


You worked for three dollars a day. The gangs were 
shipped west and south, to where the yellow prairies rolled 
on and on, over the horizon and apparently forever. The 
iron horse chewed forward, with, as the men told Pete, 
sonovabitch Jay Gould riding that boiler up there, his 

looking like a smokestack, and he rode the backs of 

more Irishmen than had ever lived in County Mayo. Pete 
took his place in a line of hammer, pick, and shovel men, 
and the line stretched on for miles. The song of iron on 
iron and spike in wood ushered in a new age, and the men 
roared, "Lay it in, lay it in, with that hammerhead, That 
iron's so heavy that you'll soon be dead!" The tracks 
pushed forward like a thing alive, ten thousand men, three 
hundred chow wagons, a traveling brothel, and a canvas 
hospital where they took those who had lain down to die. 
The camps sprang up every few miles, and they were wild 
and sinful places, run by the same companies who put 
through the roadbed, taking every Saturday night what the 
men had worked six days from dawn to dusk to earn, 
liquor at a dollar a shot and women at twenty times more, 
and three-card faro, roulette, the shell game, and blackjack 
to pick up what was left. 

In this, Pete worked. The first day on the job, he learned 
why they had held torchlight processions in St. Louis, why 



beer flowed like water, and why they were paying three 
and four dollars a day against seventy-five cents in St. 
Louis. For one thing, in the summer, heat casualties were 
greater than on a battlefield; men dropped like tenpins 
from the heat. There had to be replacements. Men wore 
out. At the spot of dawn, you picked up your pick, ham- 
mer, shovel, or spike-brace; when it became too dark to 
work, you dropped it. The railroads were pacing across the 
continent, and men had to walk fast. 

Pete Altgeld was young and strong; he prided himself 
on his strength. When the Irishmen on either hand warned 
him, "Take it easy, youngster, or they'll lay you out under 
this dirty Kansas sod," he laughed and showed them what 
he could do. As everyone knew, the Irishmen were shipped 
over like cattle, sent by the carload to work the roads, and 
they didn't have the fire inside them that he did, the 
certainty of sitting on the top. And he could work! The 
muscles were laced over his broad back like piled-up 
leather, and his lean hands had clasped some tool for as 
long as he could remember. And, anyway, it was only 
natural that when a man became old and couldn't keep 
up, he should be thrown aside. If you had imagination, 
you saw the iron rails going through, hell-bound for glory; 
it needed a man to put them down. These Irishmen were 
skinny and underfed, and after twelve hours' work, they'd 
take out what was left with drink. If a man held onto his 
three dollars a day, he'd soon be rich! Pete Altgeld would 
hold onto it; day after day, under the broiling sun, he told 
himself that. 

And then, one day, he began to burn, and his legs turned 
into rubber. They carried him into a tool shack, and by 
then he was trembling with cold. The Irishmen shook 
their heads over the damfool kid, and he lay there under 



a load of sacking until a harried doctor came and suggested 
that he be admitted to the hospital at three dollars a day. 

Pete refused. He said he would die first. 

"You'll die all right," the doctor agreed. "There's nobody 
going to bring you grub here. You'll die sure as hell." 

"Three dollars a day! For three dollars I work all day." 

"That's right," the doctor agreed. 

The fever loosened his tongue, and Pete Altgeld raved 
about the money. He needed the money; it was going to 
ride him right up to the top of the world. He was going 
to study law; he wasn't going to swing a pick and shovel 
for the rest of his life. Hadn't he put his money away, 
dollar by dollar, and now they wanted it back, three dollars 
a day. He'd die first. 

"All right," the doctor agreed. "But you can't die here. 
This is company property." 

He struggled to his feet, and then collapsed. The doctor 
called the two litter-bearers, who were waiting outside. 
They took him to the hospital, a long clapboard and can- 
vas lean-to, where they undressed him. The money was in 
a belt around his belly. The company stood for no non- 
sense when it came to diggers' savings, and all the money 
was delivered over to the staff accountant. There were 
sixty dollars in all, and this was entered against twenty 
days of service. But when, on the fifth day, it seemed that 
Pete Altgeld was dying, seventeen dollars was allocated for 
a pine coffin and a grave, certified to be at least three feet 
deep. However, he took a turn for the better and lasted 
the full time. By then he was able to walk, if uncertainly; 
he had lost twenty pounds, and he had severe and chronic 
headaches, and he was penniless. Since his gang had moved 
twenty miles along the line, he asked the hospital superin- 
tendent for a pass to ride free. 



"Ride where?" the superintendent wanted to know. 

"To the job." 

"You got no job," he was told. "You're not fit to work, 
and we're not paying three dollars a day to corpses." 

He pleaded. He reminded the superintendent that he 
had outworked the Irishmen. Hadn't the foreman said that 
he was one of the best men on the job? 

"I can't give you a pass," the superintendent said stolidly. 
"You want to join your gang— then walk it." 

Pete set out along the line to walk it. It was a hundred 
degrees in the shade, but there was no shade. After a while, 
it seemed to Pete that the prairies were rising and falling 
like a sea of ochre sulphur. He crawled into a toolshed and 
lay there until dark, sleeping a little. At nightfall, he came 
out and began to walk again. At a chow house, he talked 
the sleepy cook into giving him half a loaf of bread and 
a piece of sausage, and by morning he staggered into his 
old camp. The Irishmen, just coming onto the job, rubbed 
their eyes and stared at him. "The strong man," they 
nodded, but without hatred; if Pete could have seen him- 
self, he would have known why. When he found the fore- 
man and asked for his old job back, he was ready for the 
swift reaction. 

"No good, Pete." 

"What's no good?" 

"You. You're no goddam good. Why don't you get out 
of here and push up north? This is fever country." 

"I got no money," he said. "Please, please, mister, give 
me the job." 

"Get some rest and then we'll talk about it." 

"I'm all right. I tell you I'm all right now. Put me on 
the job. Put me on the job and see." 

The foreman shrugged and nodded for him to join his 



gang. But now the Irishmen set the pace. For two hours, 
Pete kept up with them; then his legs buckled and he 
rolled over on the ground. They carried him into the 
shade, and that night the foreman gave him a pass to ride 
back along the line. The foreman gave him some good 
advice, too: 

"Clear out, or you'll be dead inside of a month." 


During the war he had felt fear, but it was not the kind of 
fear that gripped him now. Turned twenty-two, in the 
prime of his young manhood, his power to work was gone, 
and he was thrown out like a used-up tool. In the whole 
world, no one gave two damns about Pete Altgeld. Whether 
he lived or died simply did not matter. Society had laid 
down a demand, and when he couldn't meet it, it turned 
its back. Now he was a bum, a tramp, a creature of the 
roads. He walked north, and his clothes became ragged, 
shabby; his beard grew. He had no strength, none at all, 
and when he tried to take a job at a farm, the fever re- 
turned. He begged for food; that he had never done before, 
nor had he ever considered that he would do it, but his 
body cried out to keep alive, and he answered its demands. 
He slept in barns or in the open field, and in the morning 
he rose, stiff, aching, and hopeless. Sometimes as he shuffled 
along the roads which led north, straight as arrows, binding 
the sections, his old dreams would return, and out of the 
impossibility of reality would come the confidence in his 
own power, but his dreams were drugs now, not plans. He 
had only one plan, to remain alive. 

Some of the people he met were kind, and others were 
cruel, and others were just indifferent. Some met him with 



a shotgun, for he was, by appearance and definition, one 
of a ravenous pack, cast out by society, and preying on 
those who had turned them into beasts. But others met 
him with kindness, and one Kansas family nursed him 
through an illness, giving him food and shelter for a while 
at least, remembering that not so long ago they were the 
dispossessed and the disinherited, searching westward with 
nothing but their own strength; yet even they recognized 
the law and bowed to it and sent him on his way. 

He took his path across Kansas, into Missouri; if it had 
been winter, he would have died; but in this gentle 
weather he was able to stay alive, to move on— to retain a 
small hope concerning what lay over the next hill. Yet as 
the days passed, even that hope waned. His young strength 
had ebbed away, all of it, and presently both past and 
future merged into a confused pattern, senseless and pur- 
poseless. He went on only because the will to live was a 
strong, demanding call, prodding him when all other prods 
were bent. 


Part Two 


a small way, a rebirth; as, for example, the way primitive 
people speak of sleep as the little death, and of death as 
the long sleep. At night, the brain relaxes; all the thousand 
currents of thought, which tugged with such remorseless 
contention, loosen; somewhere, there is a washing and a 
cleansing. Even the dreams which come with morning be- 
long to another world, and this morning, when the Judge 
awakened, his dreams flurried for only an instant and then 
sank back into the pits of memory. For just a short while 
he clung to remnants, as people do, a face out of the past, a 
long road he had walked, a terrible thing happening; but 
the wonder of dreams is to prove to people that nothing 
is changeless; horror is washed away in an instant, and 
sunlight is a testimony to the goodness of life. And there 
are other testimonies upon waking, the softness of a warm 
bed, embracing, the way a mother folds a child into her 
gentle bosom, clean white sheets, a feather pillow, and 
downy blankets to keep out the nip of the autumn air. 
It is true that same may wake differently, on the hard, cold 
earth, on the wooden board of a prison cell, on a crunching 
cornshuck bag, on a vermin-ridden floor— and some into a 



horror of life from which sleep is the only surcease— yet 
the Judge was not prone to dwell on the copybook maxim: 
"There, but for the grace of God, go I," He could too 
clearly trace back the steps by which he had gone, and 
although occasionally one or another had lent a helping 
hand, it was, to his way of thinking, his own strong hands 
which had pulled on the bootstraps hardest, and credit 
should be given where credit was due. 

So to him, in the moments after awakening, this was 
the little rebirth after the little death, and the broad slab 
of sunshine intersecting the window and the room was the 
new compact life made with him. Unhurriedly, for it was 
still very early in the morning, he returned to the business 
of living, turned first from side to side, opened his eyes and 
then closed them, stretched with the warm and comfort- 
able ease of an animal, sighed, sensually relaxed with the 
enfolding grasp of the bed, and experienced that wonder- 
ful sensation we know only upon awakening or in times 
of great weakness— that drift in and out of consciousness 
which enables the ego to float like a disembodied spirit. 
Starting to live again, he was not wholly in either the pres- 
ent or the past, and in quick succession he became many 
things, Pete Altgeld the farm boy, Pete Altgeld the soldier, 
Pete Altgeld the tramp, Pete Altgeld the wanderer who 
sought hope where there was no hope, Pete Altgeld dying, 
living, defeated, triumphant— he remembered the begin- 
ning of the change, when at the lowest point of sickness and 
despair, he found people who were good to him, helping 
him, feeding him; that was a nice point to come to life, 
to full consciousness, wondering only what there was back 
of his mind that disturbed him. 



He heard voices through the door: 

"Be quiet! You'll wake the Judge!" 

"Who's shouting— you're shouting, yelling all the time, 
yelling be quiet." 


"Quiet yourself." 

"I don't want none of your lip." 

"Well, I should say! I don't want none of yours." 

"I never seen a parlormaid who wasn't a hussy. You're 
a hussy." 

"I'm not. You don't call me that, lording it high and 
mighty. You think you own this house?" 

"I'll turn you out." 

"Will you? I could tell a thing or two." 

"Just remember I'm housekeeper here. Now go down 
to the kitchen. You hear me? Down to the kitchen." 

Then the Judge heard the door of his wife's dressing 
room open, and she stepped outside and said, "Both of 
you go downstairs and stop this horrible racket." 

The Judge sat up in bed. Life was complex and even the 
servant problem was not simple. He knew what was dis- 
turbing him now. Today was November eleventh, in the 
year eighteen hundred and eighty-seven. 


The Judge turned back the covers, let his feet dangle over 
the side of the bed for a moment, then wriggled his feet 
into the slippers. He went to the window and looked out 
into the sunny Chicago morning. November in Chicago is 



a good month, cold and fine and clean. Most of the leaves 
are gone from the trees, and those of the tree birds who 
haven't gone south are alive and brisk. Already, at this 
hour, still somewhat before seven, people were on their 
way to work. A policeman stood not far away, and a brew- 
ery wagon clattered by. All was right in the world. The 
Judge shivered a moment, found a bathrobe, and wrapped 
it around him. 

This morning, the Judge was uncommonly alive to 
sounds, smells, to heat and cold, to the compass of the four 
walls of his room, to all the sensations which usually the 
body accepts so readily and unconcernedly. Irritation was 
ready and waiting, and many things contributed to it, a 
picture of Daniel Webster on the wall— What a stupid, 
ridiculous decoration for a bedroom wall! Why don't I 
throw it out! Black Daniel, black as his own ignorance!— 
an ugly carved curl in the back of a chair, the wallpaper, 
the rug on the floor. But he knew that he was consciously 
irritating himself, and he fought the feeling. He paced the 
room, back and forth, several times, stretched his arms, 
revolved them once or twice, opened the window, and 
breathed deeply of the cold morning air. But the chill was 
depressing rather than exciting, and he closed the window 
hurriedly, seating himself on the bed and rubbing his 
beard. He was not yet fully awake, and a drowsy reminis- 
cence of sleep still lingered, expressing itself as a thought- 
fulness, a slowly revolving wonder and meditation which 
could be shattered in a basin of cold water and soap, but 
which the Judge did not choose to shatter yet. Rather was 
he concerned with his irritation, his state of mind on this 
special day; and letting his thoughts drift, he sought to 
recover himself. 

He took refuge in an old and reliable counterpoint; he 

4 6 


was a judge and he despised judges, more so now than ever, 
and with that idea he smiled for the first time this morn- 
ing. A case he had tried outlined itself, and for at least the 
fifth time he considered the sardonic and clever remark he 
might have and should have made at a certain point, a 
remark which would have been repeated for weeks all over 
Chicago— Judge Altgeld said that the other day— but which 
he did not make simply because he did not think of it until 
a good deal too late. And then, annoyed at himself for 
returning to this egotism so readily, he wrenched his 
thoughts away and dropped back into a vague trend of 

Some things always stood out, leaped into silhouette 
effect, presented themselves as a matter of habit. A miser- 
able and unhappy rainy day during his army service always 
recalled itself, although there was nothing so very special 
about it; it was just a lasting and well-remembered discom- 
fort, and it stood out more sharply than anything else. 
Also, there was a consideration of chance and purposeful- 
ness which presented itself whenever he was in such a 
mood as this; he was a great believer in purposefulness: 
didn't the thread of his own proud ego run back into the 
mistiest memories of childhood, so that when he was the 
miserable, ugly child, standing before the father, he never- 
theless felt within him his destiny, and knew so surely that 
it could not elude him? But in his recollection of his fever- 
blurred walk northward from the railroad, there was not 
so much certainty of destiny. He was a tramp, a dirty, ill- 
smelling, sick tramp, when he came to a farm and pleaded 
for shelter and work. 

"But a sick man can't work," Cam Williams, the farmer, 

How well he remembered Cam Williams! No, a sick 



man can't work; so craftily, exalted by his fever, grinning 
as over a well-hidden joke, he bargained with the farmer. 
If he got well, he would work it off; he was a mighty 
worker in his health, and he boasted of what he had done 
on the railroad. "And if you die?" the farmer said. But the 
farmer wasn't taken in, not even a little bit. There are men 
who are kind and who love other men; and though the 
Judge did not fully understand this broad, encompassing 
love of a species that is so basic in some, he recognized that 
it existed. Otherwise, why had the farmer made the poor 
bargain, sheltered him, fed him, and given him work? 
Hadn't that been the beginning, there outside the little 
town of Savannah in Iowa? But his refuge lay in the fact 
that if it hadn't been this farmer, mightn't it have been 
another? The primer of success said that man was strong 
and mighty, and the clue to destiny lay in his head and his 
own two hands; and revolting against the broad, soft, 
species-loving man, the unreasonable humanitarian, the 
Judge sought for a train of events to bear out the primer. 
Memory paraded and collected and sorted, spurred on by 
the very fact that this was November 1 1, 1887. Had anyone 
been worse equipped, so ugly, so little gifted, so poorly 
raised, so miserably educated; all this was against him at 
the start, was it not? And he had gone down, deep down, 
before he came up. Was Cam Williams to receive the 
credit? Yet he, Pete Altgeld, John Peter Altgeld, Judge 
Altgeld, might have remained at the farm all his life, a 
laborer and then perhaps a farmer himself. Wasn't that to 
be weighed in the balance? Ambition is dissatisfaction, and 
on that thread the world spins. From farm laborer, he had 
gone to a job in Savannah, teaching, but that was not the 
end; he read law, worked on farms to swell his small earn- 
ings. It was not just that he came to know people; rather, 



he developed in himself those qualities which made people 
admire him, and thereby, not by chance, came his appoint- 
ment as city attorney. 

Sitting on his bed now, the Judge looked at his own two 
hands, strong, square, purposeful. "My doing," he re- 
flected. "And I could do it again— and again." 

No one gave him anything. He practiced law from the 
bottom; the smallest cases were not too mean for him. He 
fought his own campaigns; he stood on his own two feet, 
hammering his way into the job of prosecuting attorney of 
Andrew County, Iowa. Did they say he climbed on the 
Granger bandwagon without ideal or principle?— if a man 
walked there were mice enough nibbling at his feet. What 
would they say if he told them that he had known this 
same dominating purpose in himself when he was twelve 
years old? Was he jealous of his ambition? Did he hoard 
it? He could have remained there as prosecuting attorney; 
no one forced him to walk out on the job and go to Chi- 
cago. It was his doing; step by step, he saw his way and he 
took it. 

And now he was Judge Altgeld of Chicago. Not Cam 
Williams! Not one of these damned species-lovers. Yet he 
could not hide from himself that this whole train of 
thought, this whole protest against the kindness of a simple 
farmer so long ago, came from the disturbing fact that to- 
day Albert Parsons and the others would die, that in not 
too many hours they would be hanging by their necks, 
with the life gone out of them. 

o v 


He dressed methodically. Though his friend, Joe Martin 
the gambler, had once remarked to him, "Pete, you're the 



damnedest Yankee, inside and outside, I've ever known," 
he retained certain habits which might be called German. 
In some things, he was extraordinarily methodical; he had 
a sense of place for things and for people. Now, as he 
dressed, the routine of doing a simple thing he had done 
so often relaxed him, and when his wife put her head in 
the door and asked, "You'll be ready soon, dear?" he an- 
swered, "In a few minutes. And I'm hungry, too." "Do you 
want eggs or hotcakes?" "I want hotcakes," he nodded 
firmly. "Well, I just don't know if we have honey." "Then 
butter. Butter is just as good. My goodness, does having 
hotcakes depend on honey? I remember hotcakes when 
honey was a dream. Believe me, a dream." "All right," she 
said. "Butter. I got some fresh butter yesterday." 

He took his little silver scissors and went to the mirror, 
to see whether his mustache or beard needed trimming to- 
day. A hair here or a hair there made all the difference in 
the world. Looking at his reflection, he was pleased, for on 
top of the train of memory, it was nice to see this dignified 
and not uncomely jurist of forty years. The close-clipped 
beard and mustache gave his face dignity, lessened the 
prow of his chin, yet did not age him as beards age some 
men. The mustache was carefully groomed to cover his 
harelip, and it was surprising what a difference that made 
in the whole aspect of his face. As a matter of fact, men 
who knew him long and fairly intimately were completely 
unaware of his defect, and of late he had even ceased to 
allow it to be a weight on his own mind. His face had be- 
come leaner, and that too helped. A good barber trained 
his unruly shock of hair to fold back over his fine brow, 
and he had a habit of so carrying his head as to give that 
clean, well-shaped brow its fullest effect. All in all, his ap- 
pearance was not anything he would have to resist, any- 



thing to hold him back; it is true that he was not as tall as 
he would have preferred, but he had long ago formed a 
theory that small men fight better. 

Trimming his mustache and beard, observing himself, 
half detachedly, the way men do in their morning mirror, 
he decided that he had made the best of a poor face, very 
much the best of it, even to the extent of winning the girl 
he wanted. That thought pushed away the last unpleasant 
connotations of the day, and he nodded agreement at his 
reflection. He had a penchant for storytelling, and some 
day he would write down the tale of his love and courtship. 
Actually, it was as good as those romances people are paid 
to write. 

It was another ugly-duckling tale. Long, long ago, when 
he had held his first teaching job in Ohio, he fell in love 
with a girl named Emma Ford. Just to think of what he 
was then could explain why the girl's family would have 
nothing of him; but he always felt the girl cared for him, 
and his boyhood love was something he sought along with 
the more solid values men put store in. The girl was a 
dream that walked with him; she was part of loneliness; 
she was part of the indescribable ache when he lay on his 
back on the hard ground and looked at the stars. This was 
not to say that he had loved only one woman; women, to 
him, were beautiful, to be wanted, to be desired; but there 
were many women and only one who inhabited that time 
when he had nothing and wanted all. So it was not sur- 
prising that at the age of thirty, with a future, some 
property, and certainly some standing in the world, he had 
returned and asked for her hand again. 

And she took him. This tall, beautiful, well-educated 
girl took him, Pete Altgeld, the disinherited, the self-made. 
Some might be cynical about this, but he couldn't be; he 

5 1 


knew her better than any of them. He had her, in the 
morning, in the daytime, at night. This was the romance 
that life gives to only a few, and life had given it to him. 

It was no wonder that looking at his face in the mirror, 
snipping a hair here, a hair there, he was able to forget 
that today was sure to be profoundly disturbing, and take 
comfort from the man who had married the woman, 
Emma Ford. He had a fine wife, and it was a boyhood 
love, the best love, the most lasting. When other men 
looked at her, casually at first, and then more intently, he 
felt the fierce pride of possession. Shouldn't a man stand 
on the firm foundation of his own things? Here he was in 
his own house, in this fine graystone mansion that was his; 
he had been only twelve years in Chicago, and the achieve- 
ment was no small one. Actually, he had grown with the 
city, grown with the brutal, creative vigor of it. 

How well he recalled what kind of a place Chicago had 
been in 1875! There, already, America's peculiar triumph, 
the railroads, converged. From the west and southwest the 
cattle came, by the millions, to be gutted, blooded, and 
rendered; a crazy-quilt of a city grew around the process 
of slaughter. Coal came from the south, iron from the 
north. Lumber drifted in through the lakes. Five hundred 
miles of Godforsaken street alternated between ice and 
mud, and an endless vista of shacks and sprawling factories 
spread like fast-multiplying mold. Here, a whole creed of 
power, success, wealth, and brute energy came into being. 
Alongside the horsecars came cattle riders from the vast 
prairie lands westward, and alongside the sooty trains were 
magnificent carriages. From the east, the south, the west, 
from the across the seas, workingmen poured in by the 
hundreds of thousands— Yankees, Rebels, Germans, Irish, 



Bohemians, Jews, Slavs, Poles, Russians— hard, desperate 
men who fought to put enough in their bellies to maintain 
life, and always it seemed that for every job there were two 
men; and even as these men fought, others fought them, 
a new kind of giant, emperor, king, the man of the million 
dollars and the hundred million dollars. So there was 
blood let, and violence, and such a ferment as existed 
nowhere else in all the known world, and still into every 
corner of the earth Chicago sent forth her hungry cry for 
men, and more men. 

This was it, his city, making him and made out of him. 
A man should stand on what is his own. 

He went down to breakfast, and when he was at the foot 
of the stairs, his wife said to him, "Isn't it a fine morning, 
dear?" "A fine morning— yes, a fine morning," he an- 
swered. She was wearing a gray skirt and a white blouse, 
crisp, clean, and bright; a person whom mornings agreed 
with, she smiled confidently. It might be said about her, 
if you were to say one thing to define her, that she was 
poised, and it was poise the Judge needed and appreciated. 
If it came to him that other people were speaking about 
her childlessness, and what a shame it was that a man like 
the Judge had no children, his reaction was furious anger; 
what did they know, and what did they understand of 
marriage and of what a man wanted of a wife? 

As they sat down at the table, he looked at her again, 
nodded, and returned her smile. As usual, his paper was 
folded alongside his plate. As he unfolded it, he was al- 
ready spooning into the heavy applesauce. "Cream?" his 



wife asked him. He nodded. He read, in the large black 
head, anarchists to die today. Then he took his second 
spoonful of sauce, anarchists to die today. 

Emma, his wife, poured heavy, yellow-tinted cream onto 
his fruit as he read, "At long last, after a year and a half, 
finis will be written to the Case of the Anarchists, and 
honest citizens can draw a deep breath and sleep soundly 
in their beds once more. We express our approval that in 
spite of so much malignant pressure put to bear, the ver- 

His wife interrupted him by asking what it was. 


"I don't think," she said, "that it's good for you to read 
at meals. I don't think it's good for your digestion, and it 
certainly isn't polite." 


"It's simply bad manners, Pete." 

He always bowed to his wife when it came to manners. 
He had been congratulated many times, by those of his 
friends who knew about such things, on his wife's impec- 
cable taste. Of taste, he had a small and carefully and pain- 
fully acquired stock, and while he trusted it, he did not 
stretch it. As long as he lived, he would not forget his first 
formal dinner, in the not so distant past, where the array 
of silver baffled, challenged, and angered him all at once, 
and with what pain and forbearance he got through, al- 
ways managing to be a little behind the others. 

"I'm sorry," he nodded. "Only-" 

"I wonder if the newspaper isn't a curse rather than a 
benefit. After all, what pleasure is there in knowing the 
misery of the world scarcely an hour after you awaken?" 

"Very little, I suppose," he admitted, folding the paper 
and returning to the fruit. 



"Is it the anarchists?" she asked him. 

"Yes." And added after a moment, "They're going to die 
today. They're going to be hanged." 

She watched him as he ate. Actually, she knew more of 
him than he thought, than most of his friends thought. 
She knew about things inside of him, and when they came 
up, over the improving surface of the jurist, she took her 
stand— not entirely with selfishness, but with a fondness 
which recognized, as so few did, that there was fire inside 
that had never been allowed to burn. 

"It's so long since they've been sentenced— over a year." 

"About sixteen months." 

"And they've had every chance," she said carefully. "I 
think people are just tired of hearing about the anarchists. 
I think people are tired of talking about them." 

"Are they?" 

"I think they are," she said, still carefully. "With all 
you've said, Peter, I think they've had a fair trial." 

"I don't," he said. 

"You change your opinion," she smiled. "I've heard you 
say that it was a very fair trial, an exceptionally fair trial. 
Are those your words?" 


"And every chance for appeal?" 


"But you change your opinion?" 

The maid came in with the hotcakes. "Draw the blinds, 
please," Mrs. Altgeld said, "and let in the sun." When she 
had gone, the Judge said: 

"Yes, I change my opinion, Emma. I don't think that's 
anything to be ashamed of. Too many people never 
change. I admit I change hard, but sometimes I change." 

"But they're anarchists." 



"Or socialists, or communists. I'm not sure I know what 
they are. I don't see that it matters a lot." 

"No. And at least we'll be able to sleep without worry- 
ing about bombs—" 


She knew signs of anger in him. She helped him to 
honey, and he began to eat the hotcakes. "They're good?" 
she asked. 

"Very good. I'm going to get fat, too. Emma, look here. 
In this damned paper—" 

"I don't like you to swear," she said. 

"I know. I shouldn't swear. Especially at breakfast, I 
shouldn't swear. I know and I'm sorry. But look here, in 
the paper it says: '. . . honest citizens can draw a deep 
breath and sleep soundly in their beds . . .' The same 
words. I don't like it when people begin to talk like sheep. 
Some of us should think." 

"Are you calling me a sheep?" 

"No, no, no. But what were they tried for— for being 
anarchists, or communists, or socialists? No! For throwing 
the bomb. For over a year we've been crazy on this subject 
of bombs. But there's no evidence to convict them." 

At that moment, she brought it up. She was not going to 
bring it up, not going to mention it. It was ammunition 
that lay in her lap, ready to fire both ways; he knew it, yet 
she brought it up. An appeal for clemency for these men 
who were going to die had been signed by sixty thousand 
citizens of Chicago, some of them very prominent men. 
Yet John Peter Altgeld's name was missing. She said, 
casually, "Then why didn't you sign the petition? Goudy 
signed it. Brown signed it. But you didn't." 

"I didn't," he admitted. 

"Would you sign it now?" 



"I don't know," he said. 

"Then where is the principle in your belief in their in- 

"I don't know. Am I supposed to have principles? You 
knew me the way I used to be, Emma, a long time ago. 
Should that produce principles?" 

What he wanted to say after that eluded him, and he felt 
ashamed of bringing up the past in so childish a manner. 
He stabbed at his food and found that he no longer de- 
sired it, and he was almost grateful to Emma when she 
poured him a cup of coffee. "Thank you," he said, con- 
tritely, and then became angry again when he realized 
that she was feeling sorry for him, sorry she had ever 
brought up the matter of the petition. He didn't want 
sympathy; he did what was right: suddenly, he told him- 
self that, and then in the saying it collapsed like a pricked 
balloon. His friend, Joe Martin the gambler, always said 
that you played the game to win and didn't count the 
stakes; but that was as childish as anything else, and even 
his friend Martin worshipped sincerely at the foot of a sort 
of perverted honesty, not holding his life much higher 
than a so-called debt of honor, whatever his honor was. 
Was there a pattern in his life concerning men who were 
good— in the accepted sense of the word— and did he 
despise such men? Of course he hadn't put his name to the 
petition; what good would it have done, in his own terms? 
He was a judge. He sat on the bench, enforcing the lav/, 
whether it was good law or bad law, just law or unjust law 
—and how well he knew that law and justice were things 
apart— and yet when he rendered a decision, did he stand 
on principle or the letter of the law? It was not a good 
world he inhabited; he had only to look around Chicago 
to see that, he had only to look back in his own memory to 



see what the world did to the weak, the small, and even to 
the strong who were not strong enough; yet hadn't he long 
ago decided that it was the best of all possible worlds? 
Hadn't he fought on that belief, up and up, step by step, 
proving the legend of America and making himself almost 
a caricature of that legend, a judge in a graystone house? 
Not, it is true, one of those like Field, or Armour, or Mc- 
Cormick— he had a different memory from theirs and he 
couldn't elude it entirely, and to prove that he had written 
a book, Our Penal Machinery and its Victims. Even if his 
desire to understand what makes criminal men was no 
more virtuous than Armour's desire to understand what 
makes sick cattle, as some of his enemies said, he was never- 
theless interested in men and believed that crime could be 
cured as well as punished. But was that principle, or was 
the only principle that of the advancement of Judge Alt- 
geld within the only frame he knew? 

His wife said that she was sorry. "Now I'm sorry," she 
said. "Why did I mention that? Why don't we forget about 
the anarchists? Finish your breakfast, please." 

He pushed his plate away. He knew the gesture dis- 
pleased her; it was not right, it was an old, bad habit of 
his. And his wife said, more hotly: 

"It's become like a sickness here in Chicago, this whole 
business of the anarchists. It's in our blood now, it seems." 

"Maybe it is a sickness." 

"Sometimes I would want to live anywhere, anywhere 
but here." 

The Judge said, "Here? This is what I am. I came here 
with nothing. I think a man who had nothing once, he 
tries to forget it, but he can't. Maybe Chicago is like a 
mother for me, so I could excuse this or that, and say, it's 



They said of Chicago then, in one of those pat phrases 
which have as little truth as substance, that it killed pigs 
and made men; but not long after Pete Altgeld came, he 
saw the men killed along with the pigs, and if there was a 
repugnance toward eating the flesh of one, that about 
limited the ethic. Pete Altgeld could have been king-pin 
in Savannah; Joe Martin had sketched that out once, say- 
ing: "I would have stayed. County attorney, state legisla- 
ture, congress, senate. The place for a big frog, if he's 
smart, is a small puddle." "And you?" Pete Altgeld asked. 
"Well," his friend answered, "some big frogs want to be 
bigger." But that was not entirely the case with Pete Alt- 
geld when he threw over a good job, a job he had sweated 
for, fought for, suffered for too, to come to Chicago with 
one hundred dollars or so in his pockets and not a friend 
in the world, just a small- town, small-time lawyer, such as 
were a dime a dozen in the queen of western cities. It was 
more than that, for Chicago was sending out a call that 
could be heard a long way, a sound in which the clink of 
silver dollars mingled with the meshing gears of machines, 
the squealing of stuck pigs, the cry of many thousand 
voices, and somewhere, lost in it almost yet not entirely, an 
echo of the old western warwhoop. Chicago asked for men 
like Pete Altgeld. When he called it his mother, he was not 
far from wrong, for it was as much a mother as anything 
he had known, and sometimes it was not unkind to men 
who could hold on and suck at those swelling teats. How 
many days had he spent in his first small office standing at 
the window and watching the wonder that America had 
made and which only America could have made. The few 



cases he got in those days were not enough to keep him 
busy; he lived in his office, worked there when there was 
work, and uncertainly at first, but soon more confidently, 
reached out his fingers to take the pulse of the city. 

It was not a very clean game he was playing; honesty and 
perseverance had a place, but they were strictly limited; 
of more importance were the people you knew, the way 
you used them, and the way you allowed them to use you. 
Nor were most of the cases that came his way fine struggles 
of jurisprudence; more often they were miserable pieces of 
the whole wretched melodrama the city presented. Di- 
vorce, or petty thievery, or for example the case which 
brought him the friendship of Joe Martin. Martin ran a 
high-class gambling parlor. A client came to Altgeld com- 
plaining of a good-sized loss at Martin's house, and asking 
Altgeld to recover for him, as was then possible within the 
law. Altgeld sent his demands to Martin, and when Martin 
came to see him, he called Altgeld's client a liar, labeled 
Altgeld's action as a part of a big blackmail racket, and 
stated that the client had never lost a dime at his place. 
Altgeld liked Martin's looks, a small, ruddy-faced, loudly 
dressed, and well-groomed man. So while he took the 
money, he questioned the client until he had determined 
that this time Martin was in the right; he threw out his 
client, returned the money to Martin, and made one of the 
best friends he had, better than the friends he made when 
he learned the method of political deals, when he learned 
that no lawyer has to starve if he climbs onto one or 
another of the political bandwagons. And he had climbed 
on. He had grown with Chicago. 

As he sat back now, wiping his lips after the coffee and a 
crisp little kaiser roll, warm and full of melted butter, he 
took refuge in the thought that, for better or worse, he 



was Chicago, this fine house he lived in, jurisprudence, the 
legal bench, a handsome wife, and many other solid and 
substantial things. Yet for all of that, he wanted to put his 
justification into words, talk to someone who would un- 
derstand all of his position and agree with it. So he said to 
his wife, "Emma, you'll call on Joe Martin and ask him to 
drop around." And as an afterthought and defense, added, 
"About that North Side property." 

"But Schilling is coming," she said. 

"Schilling? This morning?" 

"He called and said he would be here a little before 
nine. I'm sorry, I forgot to tell you." 

"Why did you forget to tell me? Of all people I don't 
want to see today, Schilling is first. Schilling! Do you know 
what he's coming here to do?— to put needles into me." 

"What do you mean?" 

"Nothing, nothing," the Judge said. "I can't see him." 

"You can't see Schilling? Pete, what are you talking 
about? He's coming here. I invited him." In one way, she 
knew more about politics than he did, more about whom 
he could or could not afford to offend. 

"All right," the Judge whispered, "all right." He stood 
up, and the security of substance was gone from him. "I'll 
be in my study. Send him up there when he comes." 


Emma watched the Judge as he climbed up the stairs. 
She had known that he would be disturbed today; cer- 
tainly, anyone who lived in or about Chicago and who was 
at all civilized could not regard with equanimity the pros- 
pect of four men hanging by their necks until they were 
dead; even if these men were cutthroats, ordinary mur- 



derers, it was still not a comfortable process to contemplate 
their last few hours on the earth. But she had not suspected 
that he would be so violently moved. As with everyone else 
in Chicago, they had both followed the Haymarket trag- 
edy, from the time the bomb was thrown, a year and a half 
ago, to the arrests, the trial, the appeals, the petitions, and 
finally the great, nationwide, desperate effort to save the 
lives of the condemned men. Yet through it all— so much 
of it confusing, contradictory— Emma had leaned on the 
Judge's judicial aloofness. And, when you listened to him 
and his friends discussing the evidence in highly legal 
terms, the face of the matter changed from a life-and-death 
struggle to an intricate and fascinating puzzle. 

Her sympathies, and most of the Judge's too, for that 
matter, were in the limbo of undecided public opinion. 
Perhaps because she knew less about it, and perhaps be- 
cause she was less worldly, Emma was more repelled than 
the Judge by such words as communism, socialism, and 
anarchy. Actually, these words reacted upon her with 
physical force, painting independent images, derived orig- 
inally from a thousand sources, casual conversation, news- 
paper stories, cartoons, little leaflets shown about as curi- 
osities, and others too numerous to name. She was a 
woman who feared violence, who was horrified by pain, 
who in a curious way admired weakness more than 
strength, yet was attracted beyond her ability to resist by 
both strength and violence. Though she knew how much 
the Judge wanted children, childbirth was a horrible 
miasma to her, partaking of all those matters of violence 
she tried so carefully to avoid. Still, in the person of her 
own husband, violence drew her; do what he might, she 
would never forget him as he had been when young, and 
perversely that drew her toward him. The Haymarket 



affair had all the implications of the unknown, the ter- 
rible, and the violent. An anarchist was a wild, bearded 
devil, a bomb in each dirty hand; a communist was some- 
one unalterably opposed to her, though for reasons she 
could not define, an unbeliever, an enemy of God and 
man, and in that a socialist stood beside him. Once, on a 
tour of the slaughterhouses, a tour she shouldn't have 
taken and which remained impressed on her consciousness 
like a bad dream, she saw the men pouring out of the yard 
gates at noon, and someone remarked, "Those are the 
workers." Of course, it was nonsense; she had known work- 
ingmen before, in her home town, in her childhood, in 
Chicago too; but this was different, big, bearded, shuffling 
men, bloody from fingertip to elbow, wearing leather 
aprons, black-streaked with blood, walking in shoes that 
were blood from sole to ankle, stone-visaged, tired, sullen. 
Always afterward, when someone spoke of the workers or 
labor, this picture came to mind, and seen in conjunction 
with all her concepts of anarchists and socialists, it was 
more than terrible. 

Her first meeting with Schilling had modified that im- 
pression; but it was not difficult for her to tell herself that 
Schilling was different, the exception which proved the 
rule. She truly liked Schilling, he seemed to be so simple, 
gentle, and, at times, wise. 

Emma suspected that, at first, Schilling's attraction to- 
ward her husband, and her husband's toward him, was 
purely political. Each suspected that he could use the 
other. But later, when she saw how they would sit and 
talk until late into the evening, in German, which her 
husband spoke so little now, drinking beer, smiling with 
pleasure, she realized that the men really complemented 
each other. Schilling was the closest thing to a real friend 



her husband had, and that pleased her too; for his lone- 
liness was a formidable thing, so formidable that some- 
times she thought it would drive him away from her and 
from the world. So she seized on Schilling, and then she 
too came to like him. 

It was hard not to like Schilling. He was a small, dry 
man, a carpenter who built boxes and barrels for the pack- 
ing house of Libby, McNeill and Libby. For years he had 
been in the labor movement, a violent radical socialist 
once, though a lot cooler now, but still a left-wing leader 
in the great struggle for the eight-hour day. Listening to 
Schilling talk, Emma got a colorful impression of what this 
turbulent, nationwide struggle for the eight-hour day was, 
of the position of the Knights of Labor, of the terrible life- 
and-death battles of the Molly Maguires, of the private 
armies of the Pinkertons. It was hardly possible for her to 
relate this to the quiet and orderly life she lived, and her 
first-hand relations with household workers, plumbers, 
carpenters, and delivery men hardly gave substance to 
Schilling's words. Yet she lent a willing ear when he said: 

"And what is labor, my dear Mrs. Altgeld? I will tell 
you. Labor is a sleeping giant, a giant who has been a long 
time asleep and is only now beginning to stretch himself 
and awaken. He isn'j: one, he is millions, and when he 
wakes up, then, believe me, you will see some things hap- 

The phrase "he is millions" stuck in her mind; votes, 
too, were counted in millions, and she had dreams for her 
husband he himself never expected. The whole eight-hour 
movement had become political, to a degree, and when 
Schilling hinted once that her husband would do well to 
make his political alliances where the votes were, she 
nodded agreement. But actually, those votes were, for her, 



imprisoned vaguely in little Schilling; she could never 
conceive of any sort of alliance with the awful specter 
which came forth from the slaughterhouse gates that day. 
And when she thought of the Haymarket defendants, she 
thought of them not in the light of Schilling, but in the 
light of those blood-stained, semi-human things who killed 
the flesh men ate. 

Therefore, she took refuge in her husband's legal aloof- 
ness, and she readily became convinced, along with thou- 
sands of others, of the guilt of the four men who were to 
be hanged. As her husband and his friends said, the trial 
was a test of democracy, and democracy had not failed. 
Such talk relieved her. Why did people have to do terrible 
things? Why did they have to take it upon themselves to 
stir up trouble? Why could they not be pleasant and nice 
and decent? Naturally, they could not all have everything; 
there was just not enough of everything to go around, and 
thereby more went to those who worked hardest. Wasn't 
her husband living proof of that? Hadn't he started with 
nothing and worked himself up to where he was now? 
Hadn't she heard it said, a thousand times if once, that any 
man who wasn't lazy could find work and advance his posi- 
tion? Wasn't that an obvious truth, here in the United 
States? And wasn't most of the trouble started by for- 
eigners? She didn't dislike foreigners; some of the most 
prominent men in the country had come as immigrants, 
and even her own husband was not born in America, 
though he had come here as a tiny infant; but wasn't there 
an obligation upon foreigners not to start trouble simply 
because for the first time they were in a free land? 

So out of this came first a hope and then a belief that 
when the Haymarket case was finally decided and finished, 
things would be quiet and peaceful, and though she never 



put it in just those terms she really believed that the death 
of these men would lay the ogre in his grave, once and for 
all. To hear, on top of this, an opinion from her husband 
that the trial was not a fair one, that the men who were 
going to die were possibly not guilty, was more than dis- 
turbing. As she had said, the case was becoming a sickness 
in Chicago, and was not the surliness of her husband's ac- 
tions this morning proof of that? 


But as he went into his study, the Judge's frame of mind 
was not too different from his wife's, and he too took a 
brief refuge in the fact that death was the final judgment, 
the unchangeable and the immutable, the end, the finish 
and the seal on all decisions. This was not to say that he 
took any pleasure in the fact that four men were to die; 
quite to the contrary, their impending deaths enraged 
him; yet he was more enraged by an awareness of his own 
position. Why had he lost his temper with Emma, and why 
had he allowed himself to hand down a decision on justice 
or injustice in that fashion? It opened up too broad a field 
of examination of all he stood for and ail his bench stood 
for, his achievement, his success and prominence. Actually^ 
he did not feel any great sorrow for the four men; death 
was an accompaniment to life, and anyone who did not 
realize that the two were instantly interchangeable was a 
dolt or an idiot, and aside from that, he had never known 
these men, nor was he in sympathy with the things they 
stood for. He knew somewhat better than his wife what 
socialism was, having discussed it at great length with 
Schilling, but he took it for the visionary aims of zealots; 



and though he had not the hatred and fear of socialists that 
Field and Armour indulged in, he nevertheless ranged, 
himself against the socialists. As for anarchists, he had 
no sympathy for them whatsoever; they were a menace to 
society, and society was correct in removing them. If they 
wanted to improve things, they could work with their two 
hands, as he had done, and everything within him revolted 
from the violence of their talk, the violence that could be 
wrought with a bomb. Therefore, he joined with his wife 
in the feeling that, once they were dead, the trouble would 
be over— or at least he sought for that assurance. 

Yet his statement remained, and the more he examined 
it, the more convinced he became that long and deep- 
seated reflection had driven him to the conclusion that no 
one of the four defendants was guilty of throwing the 
bomb which had exploded a year and a half before in Hay- 
market Square. But if that was the case, when had he come 
to the decision, now or a week ago or a month ago— and if 
he had come to the decision, why had he taken no action? 
And what would he tell Schilling? Could he say to Schill- 
ing, "I don't know whether they were innocent or guilty 
and, furthermore, I don't give a damn whether they were 
or not; the fact is that they had a rotten, cheap, biased 
trial, and even what we call justice was turned into a 
mockery." Could he tell Schilling that? 

On the other hand, why see Schilling at all? Literally, it 
would soon be the eleventh hour, and at that time they 
were going to die. Then it would be over, and tomorrow, 
he, John Peter Altgeld, could sit on his bench once more, 
arrayed in the long and grand and legal robes of justice. 

The Judge sank into a large and comfortable chair, and 
at this point he was able to smile at himself. Let Schilling 



come and go; in the last analysis, he, Pete Altgeld, was one 
individual, and the responsibilities of the world were not 

He looked around the room, a nice room, the kind of a 
room he had wanted all his life; not precisely, of course, 
for a man's life is divided into many stages, and along with 
a change in taste there is a change in outlook and personal- 
ity. Still it was the development of the room he had 
wanted. The walls were lined with books, books he had 
read, books he wanted to read, legal books, and books he 
simply wanted to own, although he knew well enough he 
would never get around to reading them. There was a fire- 
place, with a fine hickory log burning inside it, and on the 
mantel there was a bust of Minerva and another bust of 
Augustus. A definition of the way a man regarded life, and a 
direction too. He had a carved desk, which he looked at 
now admiringly. 

Possessions were not a drug with him, as with some, but 
certain things were nice to have, and the pleasure of own- 
ing them did not pall easily. They made small monuments, 
as the desk did, with its book-ends, books between them, 
its neatly piled papers, its fine and shining brass lamp, 
topped with two green-glass globes, and its pens and pen- 
cils and ornate paperweights. It was surprising what pleas- 
ure he could get and what an equable frame of mind he 
could manage simply by looking at the desk, examining it 
anew, and placing it properly in the room and the house, 
as, for example, he himself was placed in Chicago society. 

So a man adjusts to the world, whether in large or small 
things, and sitting in his room, his kingdom, the morning 
paper spread on his knees, the Judge waited for George 
Schilling to arrive. 




And when Schilling came in, the Judge smiled and said, 
"Good morning, George." 

"Good morning." 

"Take off your coat. Sit down and make yourself com- 
fortable. Do you want a cigar?" 

Schilling shook his head as he struggled out of his coat. 

"On a chair. Anywhere. Cold outside?" 

"Not too cold." 

"November is a fine month," the Judge said. "The 
blood runs easy in the veins. It thins out just enough. Of 
course, here in the city we live like animals in a cage. I 
remember how November was when I was a boy. All the 
black pigs turned out into the cornfields to glean. The 
pumpkins piled up on the roadside. The cornstalks sheaved 
and standing like soldiers waiting for orders. My goodness, 
you could go wherever you wanted in the State of Ohio, 
and you'd find those same sheaves ready and waiting. And 
the trees were going bare. The wind blew and the sky 
would rain dead and shrunken leaves." 

"Those are good things to remember," Schilling said. 

"Well, why don't you sit down? Of course, we remem- 
ber the good things. What then?" 

As Schilling seated himself, he said, "Sometimes we re- 
member other things." 

"That's your mood today. I'm trying to cheer you up on 
this fine fall morning. You come in looking like a funeral." 

"I don't feel very happy today, Judge." 

"No?" He was making it hard for Schilling; deliberately 
and carefully, he was making it very hard for him. "What 
do you expect to do?" he asked abruptly. 

6 9 


The little carpenter stared at him, started to speak, 
swallowed back the words, and then let both his hands 
drop on his knees. Altgeld realized that he had lost a day's 
work by coming here, and he fought down the sympathy 
this small but sincere sacrifice provoked. Yet he could not 
help realizing that in a very real sense the room they were 
in, the house too, was isolated from a somber fermentation 
which covered all of the city, perhaps all of the country 
too. And that prompted him to ask: 

"Is there any hope?" his voice kinder than it had been 

"Maybe— but I don't believe that either. Three men 
went to talk with the governor. What good will it do?" 

"Not much good now." 

"I think so too." 

"Then what can I do for you, George? Why do you 
come to me?" 

Schilling shrugged his shoulders. "Maybe I had to come 
somewhere. I'm nervous. I'm afraid and I'm frightened. 
And I'm desperate too. You're the only man in the city 
with power and reputation whom I really trust. So I said 
to myself, I will waste a little of the Judge's time on this 
black Friday morning." 

The Judge was forced into denying that. "You don't 
waste my time, George." It was curious how easily Schil- 
ling could get the upper hand. 

"No— but I always have that feeling. Perhaps I shouldn't. 
This morning, I want to talk to you." 

"All right." 

"You think it won't do any good. I suppose not. But give 
me an hour, even a half hour. Let me tell you about Par- 
sons. All the way over here, I was thinking, what should I 
tell you? Then I decided I would just talk about Parsons." 



"Why? For a year now, every time I opened my paper, 
there was something about Parsons. Isn't that enough?" 

"I suppose so," Schilling nodded. "If you don't want me 
to, all right. Only the newspapers don't always tell the 
truth— you know that, Judge. There are some things I 
wanted to tell you, even if it don't make any difference." 

''Did you have breakfast?" 

"I had it, Judge. You don't want me to talk?" 

"Damn it, go ahead and talk, instead of sitting there 
and arguing the point with me." 

Nervously, at first, Schilling began to speak. He began 
in English, haltingly, groping for words; then, as he went 
on, he lapsed more and more into German, until presently 
he was speaking entirely in that language. 


"I want to say it right," Schilling began. "I want to say 
it so that Pete Altgeld will know what I mean— forgive me, 
Judge, I'm thinking almost out loud, and walking over 
here, I turned over in my mind the question, what is it 
here I must tell him? But to make it understood I must 
put everything in its place. Like a good German— he puts 
everything in its place. Also, I will think like a German, 
that is something I cannot help, and maybe that is why I 
decide to talk about Parsons, not about Spies, not about 
Fischer and Engel. About them, what more can I tell you— 
they came from that one land in the world where freedom 
is held in such contempt, in such contempt, Judge. Didn't 
you tell me about your father, how with the bullwhip he 
taught you obedience? I'm sorry again, I mean to make 
only one thing, to explain why I talk about Parsons, not 



those three who were Germans and who went somewhere 
else to look for liberty—" 

"Then talk about Parsons," the Judge said coldly. 

"Yes, but you will remember that all four of them are 
going to die in a little while." The Judge said nothing; his 
eyes strayed to the clock on the mantel, and Schilling con- 

—I know a good deal about Parsons, but I want to put 
each thing into place. Some would begin by speaking 
about Albert Parsons' lineage; whether that is a good or 
bad thing, I don't know, I have so little of it myself. And 
in this country it is so peculiarly mixed: on the one hand, 
there is the lineage of wealth; for example, if your father 
was a millionaire, you are entitled to a place among the 
great; but on the other hand, there is the lineage of free- 
dom, and that, I think, is the greatest contradiction in all 
this strange and wonderful country. The lineage of free- 
dom—and it is only here, nowhere else, in no other land, 
no other place— the lineage of freedom says that if your 
father's father, or your grandfather's father, fought in the 
Revolution for freedom, then America has a debt to you 
which she can never repay. Why do I speak of this?— not 
only because Parsons stands high in that lineage, very 
high, for on his mother's side there was an aide to General 
George Washington, and on his father's side, there were 
two in the direct line, Major-General Samuel Parsons, who 
led the Massachusetts troops, and Captain Parsons, I don't 
know his other name, who was wounded at Bunker Hill; 
but not only because of these facts, but because how else 
can one understand America? They haven't our memories 
here in America; they never had the lord, the duke, the 
junker, the incarnation of evil to take away their souls as 



well as destroy their bodies. They never had that, and so 
they don't know what it means; but a nobility of freedom, 
that incredible contradiction, that they had, and that we 
must remember when we speak of Parsons. 

—And maybe that's not the least important thing in 
making Parsons what he is. And we must understand some 
of the things which went into the making of Parsons; all 
of them we can't understand, for there is no man whose 
life isn't a secret book, so much of it in a code which only 
God himself will ever decipher. But some of the things, 
yes; the fact that Parsons fought in the war. He fought on 
the other side, it is true, but that was because he lived in 
Texas, worked there, and how does a boy of sixteen or 
seventeen turn against his comrades? And he fought well; 
no one ever accused him of being a coward. Afterward, 
however, he could not stomach what happened, the way 
the black men were driven back to slavery, and he took 
the side of the Reconstruction government, worked in it, 
and became a part of it. But how much more there is 
which I don't know; how does a boy of twenty think the 
way Parsons thought, against all odds, clearly, lucidly? 
Well, he made his own pattern for his life; he became the 
champion of the Negro, of the downtrodden white man, of 
the Indian who was being driven westward and wiped out, 
the way the Germans of old wiped out the Slavs because 
they wanted their land. 

—There is so much to tell about Parsons, and such a 
short time, only enough time to select a piece here and a 
piece there. For instance, his wife Lucy, who was half 
Indian and half Spanish, wild and dark and beautiful, like 
those roses one finds growing in the woods, alone and 
splendid. Their love for each other is like something out 
of an old-fashioned romance, but good love. What else 



should I draw in here? He was a printer, an editor, a news- 
paper writer, but firstly a workingman who set type. But 
he had knowing hands; he was a good carpenter, and also, 
now and then, he rode herd in the cattle country. Do you 
know the kind of man who is gentle as a woman yet hard 
as a piece of steel? You must have met that kind in the 
army; well, that was the kind of a man Parsons was. There 
is much more I could tell you, I suppose, but I am not 
trying to make a case for Parsons; in too many things we 
disagree. I only want to tell you one or two things per- 
taining to this Haymarket affair, which perhaps you don't 

—But I must tell you of the first time I met him. You 
know the old saying, the heart sees only once, and after 
that the eyes see. So I call to mind the first time I laid eyes 
on him. It was in 1877, during the great railroad strike. 
That was like a waking up for the labor movement, like 
a birth. The very nature of the strike was like a birth, no 
real organization in the beginning, the workingmen on 
one railroad laying down their tools, then another, then 
another, until the land was faced with the greatest strike it 
had ever known— and a labor movement too. But there 
were no leaders to speak of; leaders had to come the same 
way, spontaneously, out of the movement. Albert Parsons 
came that way. Sure, he had been an organizer before, a 
good union man, spoken to meetings; but in July of 1877, 
we had a meeting here that was like no other working-class 
meeting ever held. The workers were called to Market 
Street, and they assembled near the junction of Madison. 
How many were there God only knows; some say twenty 
thousand, some say thirty thousand. I can tell you this, 
that they poured in for hours, and then there was such a 
sea of faces as I had never seen before in all my life, just a 



swelling carpet of upturned faces wherever men could 
stand, and over it torchlight and banners; and it made me 
afraid, and it made me feel like crying too. And then 
Albert Parsons stood up and spoke to them. That was 
when I first saw him. 

—You've never seen him, have you? But you've seen the 
pictures, and some of them are good, the high brow, the 
fine dark eyes, the nose and chin cut like a cameo, the black, 
silky mustache; I am foolish-looking enough myself to 
appreciate good looks and also to mistrust them; but it 
was different with Parsons, believe me; you forgot, right 
away, that he was good-looking; you accepted him and you 
listened to him. I listened to him; I tried to write down 
what he was saying— but only the beginning, and after that 
I stopped writing and listened. But do you know how he 
began? He said, "Fellow Americans, whose bread is free- 
dom and whose milk is liberty, I want to talk to you about 
justice and injustice. Not about the rights of man but 
about the hopes of man, for we have little enough of 
rights, yet much of hope." That much I remember, and 
after that I stopped writing. But later on I asked myself, 
how much of him is real? How much is the truth? How 
much is a play actor? He looked like Booth, like Edwin 
Booth, and he was a strange man for us then. 

—I met him the next day at the office of our paper. We 
shook hands; we talked a little. And while we were talking, 
the police came for him. You know how, two of them with 
their guns in his belly. They marched him over to City 
Hall and up to Hickey's office. He was chief of police then. 
They filled the room with officers. They asked him ques- 
tions, and when he tried to answer, they gave it to him, 
back and forth, across the face. They asked him, what in 
hell did he mean, a dirty Texas rebel bastard, coming up 



to Chicago and making trouble? When he tried to say that 
he had spoken at a meeting of the Workingman's Party, 
telling workers what was their right with the ballot, the 
police shut him up and beat him again. Then they let him 
go. But they warned him; they told him how simple it 
would be for him to be found dead on some street corner; 
they told him a mob might string him to a lamppost, if he 
continued to agitate. All this he repeated to us when he 
returned. We waited for him. 

—It was after that the Albert Parsons I speak about 
emerged. You don't threaten a man like Parsons; you 
don't beat him up;'you don't tell him to go back where he 
came from. That is all right with some men, with the kind 
who shout and bluster and boast; but with Parsons' kind, 
the Texas kind, the soft, gentle, quiet-spoken kind, with 
them it's no good. 

—You have to see what Parsons became in the years 
which followed, and you will understand that there was 
only one other like him, and that was Sylvis; Sylvis died, 
but Parsons they have to kill. And I don't agree with Par- 
sons, still I must tell you these things. I want you to look 
at the man, and I want you to see what happened to him. 
Then, during the last of the seventies, we worked together. 
He still had faith in the ballot, and the labor party in Chi- 
cago was growing with leaps and bounds. What kind of a 
man was he? He was tireless; a setback made him stronger; 
if all of our faces were a mile long, he still could smile. He 
would speak four times in one evening, and you know that 
nothing else can take the life out of you so quickly as pub- 
lic speaking. He worked in the Knights of Labor. He 
wrote; he did twenty things at once, and always he had 
enough time for his wife. He would walk in the streets 
with her as if there was nothing in the world more im- 

7 6 


portant, each with an arm around the other's waist, and 
looking at each other as if they had only discovered them- 
selves that very day and moment. 

—Nothing, as I said, was too much for him. We put him 
up for office in the next few years, alderman, county clerk, 
congress, and he spoke, not only for himself, but for every 
candidate on the slate. And with all that, he found time to 
organize the first Trades Assembly in Chicago, became its 
first president, organized in his own trade the Typo- 
graphical Union, and was free consultant and partner to 
anyone who wanted advice or strength in building a 
union. At one time, we wanted him to be the first labor 
candidate for President of the United States; and, do you 
know, he was too young. Can you imagine, he was only 
thirty-five! He's only forty-three today. 

—But I'm getting away from my story, and I must make 
it quick and short, and not lose all your patience. In 1880, 
he broke from the labor party. Why? You and I are prac- 
tical men, but Parsons saw what was happening, the graft, 
the buying and selling of votes, the corruption. Once, he 
said to me, "You work a man twelve hours a day, and give 
him half what he needs to live on, and you want him to 
vote carefully and honestly. Well, I tell you, if his children 
starve, don't be surprised that he sells his vote." 

—I asked him what he intended to do, and he said, work 
for the eight-hour day, that and organize. We were just 
gaining our strength in the eight-hour movement then. 
The trade unions got together and sent Parsons all through 
the middle west. He spoke everywhere; I don't know if 
there's one man in the country who gave to the workers 
what Parsons did. He was sent as delegate from Chicago to 
the big eight-hour convention in Washington, and the 
convention made him one of a committee to stay in Wash- 



ington, coordinate the movements of organized labor, and 
study the whole question of the eight-hour day. 

—What happened to Parsons in Washington, what he 
saw there, I don't know; you must remember, always, the 
kind of a man he was; if I believed in saints, I would call 
him that; but he was so human, so full of life, so enchanted 
with just the everyday process of living. That isn't a part of 
sainthood, is it? And he was always so madly in love with 
this wife of his— not what they call a pure love, but the 
love of two whose bodies understand each other, and if 
you ever saw them together you realized that right away. 
But in Washington, something happened; he changed; he 
looked at a country governing itself, and after that he 
talked differently. 

—After that, he split with us wholly, and he joined the 
International Working People's Association. He became a 
revolutionary socialist. An anarchist? That's a name, a tag; 
I know what he was; I would be against him in any case- 
but he was that, a revolutionary socialist, not this crazy 
cartoon they make of him, a bearded lunatic with a bomb 
in each hand and the label of anarchist under him. That is 
not Parsons; even if I regard him as a man who has gone 
the wrong way, I must still say that is not Parsons. 

—Yet when I think of what he did after that, how much 
can I condemn him? He went to the people. He traveled 
through the coal fields, the hell-towns of Pennsylvania and 
Illinois, speaking to the miners, living with them, always, 
always pleading the cause of socialism. Still, there was no 
labor struggle within five hundred miles of here in which 
he didn't participate. He founded and edited the Alarm, 
the first English weekly of their international; that you 
know. When the great strikes came, a few years ago, he 
stood with the strikers. Don't think they never tried to kill 



him before. The Pinkerton armies had secret orders, which 
I myself saw, to get Parsons. Also to get others, but first on 
the list was Parsons. The police were instructed to club 
him to death, first chance they got. And they tried, they 
certainly tried. 

—And what else is there to tell, before I speak of Hay- 
market? You want to know how he lived? He lived on 
nothing. Lucy was clever. I've watched her weave his suits 
back together when they fell to pieces from wear. She 
could make meals of scraps. There were years when he 
couldn't work, when he was on the blacklist of every news- 
paper and every printshop in the west. Then his own peo- 
ple fed him from the little they had. He never took until it 
was forced on him; he never asked; he never complained. 
Once, when I met him, he had not eaten for two full days; 
but I was with him more than an hour before I realized 
he was faint from hunger. 

—I know I will have to bore you by repeating what we 
both know, the facts of the meeting; I keep saying to my- 
self, thank you for hearing me. But first I want to finish 
with the man; he isn't going to die if they kill him today; 
some men don't die. Maybe both of us will have to deal 
with him, and that's why I want to understand him, for 
myself as well as for you. They talk of socialism as a 
foreign importation, but what is foreign about Parsons? 
Once I met a United States marshal from Texas; he was 
like Parsons, quiet, gentle, polite, he never raised his voice 
and most often seemed to apologize, but he had a reputa- 
tion for being a very brave man, and he too, in his own 
way, took the side where there was least strength and least 
hope. But don't think Parsons is a dolt; his reasoning is 
cold and logical; he's read everything on labor and social- 
ism he could lay hands on. When he talks, there are ideas. 



I disagree bitterly with those ideas; I say he is wrong, dan- 
gerously wrong, and isn't what happened proof that he 
was wrong? For him, there is only one solution, for the 
workers to rise up and take over the land, the means of 
production, the factories and the schools and the halls of 
justice— and to me, that is insanity. So you see, I too am 
against him, and against Spies and the others. But are men 
to die, to be murdered simply because I do not agree with 

—You could ask why, believing this, Parsons should fight 
so hard for the eight-hour day, for every advance and de- 
mand of labor. That is very interesting. I myself asked 
Parsons that; but to him there is no contradiction; every 
gain for labor is a gain for his own and their own cause- 
like that. I say that to show that the man lived what lie 
preached; there is only one Parsons, not two. 

—I could tell more; I could spend most of the day telling 
this and that about Parsons, but there isn't most of today. 
There is only another hour and a half. So let us start with 
such a man and see what happened. 

—You remember how a year and a half ago we decided 
that there should be a day for American labor, one day 
which was ours, which would mark our unity and our de- 
termination in the struggle for eight hours. We picked 
May the first. My word, you would have thought that we 
destroyed the foundations of the country by asking a day 
for ourselves, our own holiday. As it approached, you re- 
member what happened. A whole army of Pinkertons 
poured into Chicago; the police armed themselves to the 
teeth, deputized every no-good bum who could be found 
on the streets. The National Guard was alerted; even units 
of the regular army were demanded, to come to Chicago 
and preserve the peace. Had we threatened the peace? All 



we proposed was to select a day when we could demonstrate 
our solidarity for the eight-hour movement. Of course, 
that Saturday came and went without any trouble; trouble 
was our enemy. We knew what we were after; we were 
organized throughout the nation— what good would vio- 
lence do us? 

—But on Monday, the third of May, a bad thing hap- 
pened. You know about it, but I want to put all things in 
their place. The demonstration outside the McCormick 
plant was not held only by the Lumber Shovers' Union; 
there were over a thousand McCormick strikers there too, 
and though August Spies spoke there, he did not call for 
trouble; he called for unity. Is that a crime? The trouble 
came when the scabs began to leave the plant. The strikers 
saw them and cursed them, and called them names not fit 
to repeat. Just picture the scene, some six thousand strik- 
ing members of two unions holding an outdoor mass meet- 
ing, and within sight of them, scabs leaving a plant. I saw 
what happened. The McCormick strikers began to move 
toward the plant. No one urged them; no one harangued 
them; they stopped listening and moved away toward the 
gates. Maybe they picked up some rocks; maybe they said 
things not nice to hear— but before they did anything, the 
plant police started to fire. My god, it was like a war! The 
strikers were unarmed, and the police stood like men on a 
range, pistols at arm's length, rifles too, potting, potting 

—They say the plant called for reinforcements— that 
would take a little time, wouldn't it? But, within minutes, 
a patrol wagon filled with police dashed up, and behind 
them, on the double, came a detail of two hundred armed 

—Well, it was the kind of a sight one would see in the 



old country, not here. The workers dropped like men on a 
battlefield. When they tried to stand fast, the police rushed 
them and clubbed them apart; when they broke and ran, 
the police followed them, clubbing them from the rear. It 
wasn't nice to see; it wasn't kind; it was a brute thing that 
made you want to go away and vomit. That's what it made 
me do, but it made Spies rush back to the office of the 
Arbeiter-Zeitung and send out a wild call for a meeting at 
Haymarket Square to protest this thing. That's how it be- 
gan; it began because we were quiet and orderly on our 
day, May Day, and because it didn't satisfy them to have us 
that way. Better with guns— with guns they could make 
real trouble, and people would scream revolution. 

—But the point is that Parsons was not there, just as Par- 
sons was not at Haymarket when the bomb was thrown. It 
wasn't only McCormick and the lumber shovers on strike; 
Pullman was on strike too, and Brunswick and the packing 
houses, and not only Chicago, but St. Louis, Cincinnati, 
New York, San Francisco. Parsons was everywhere he could 
be, but not here; Parsons was tired and sick; he would 
come home and collapse into bed. A labor organizer isn't 
a life to grow old with; first the stomach goes, then the 
legs, then, when you've been beaten and clubbed enough, 
the head, the mind. 

—So they got up the meeting at Haymarket for the next 
day. They picked Haymarket because of its size; you see, 
Spies was like a man gone crazy when he came back from 
the McCormick plant, his head full of the wounded, the 
dying. He thought that the workers would come out by the 
tens of thousands to protest; but McCormick was only a 
small part of a giant struggle, and already the workers were 
being defeated. Everywhere, they were being smashed and 
broken, and what would one more meeting change? But 



don't underestimate Spies— a brilliant man and honest, 
too; with the foreign-born workingmen, he was like Par- 
sons with the Americans. He saw this as a chance not to be 
missed; if twenty thousand workers packed Haymarket 
Square, the whole trend of the eight-hour struggle might 
be reversed. Perhaps— I don't know; as I said, I don't agree 
with these men. To talk revolution is not to promote my 
fight, but to hinder it; that is the way I feel. 

—But twenty thousand men did not appear in Hay- 
market the next night. When Spies arrived, as you know, 
there were very few, and as the evening went on, the great- 
est size of the crowd was less than three thousand. And 
because the crowd was so small, they moved the meeting 
from Haymarket to Desplaines, between Lake and Ran- 
dolph. But I am telling you about Parsons; that is my only 
reason for wasting your time this morning. I am telling 
you how Parsons was not there, how he didn't even know 
about the meeting. As a matter of fact, Sam Fielden didn't 
know about the Haymarket meeting either. 

—But to get back to Parsons. He had left Chicago on the 
second of May and had gone to Cincinnati to speak. All 
day on the third of May, when the terrible thing happened 
at McCormick's, Parsons was away. He got home on the 
morning of the fourth. He had gone without sleep all 
night; he was tired and haggard as he listened to Lucy's 
story of what had happened. It was not too different from 
what he had seen himself in Cincinnati. All over the same 
thing. The barons were angry; this dirty monster who 
had stood up to challenge them must be crushed, and they 
were busy crushing it, and all over it was breaking into 
pieces. A hungry, tired, unarmed man isn't any match for 
a Catling gun. 

—Parsons listened to his wife's story. He played with his 



two children. He drank the coffee she gave him and ate a 
piece of bread. He said to her, "We have to do something." 
But what was there to do? "You're too tired for a meeting 
tonight," she said. She was not speaking about the Hay- 
market meeting; she didn't know about that meeting. 
"There has to be a meeting," Parsons said. You see, we 
called the men Parsons led the American group, because 
most of them were native-born workingmen. He decided 
there had to be a meeting and, tired as he was, went out to 
put an announcement in the Daily News. Then he came 
home and played with the children some more. Then he 
went to sleep. When he woke up, he was much better; he 
was his old self, laughing it away. Lucy says he spoke about 
victory instead of defeat; he talked about his children 
growing up into an America that would lead the world to- 
ward justice and freedom. 

—In the evening, he and Lucy and the two children 
went out to the meeting. Like always, he and Lucy walked 
together, looking at each other as if they were lovers. 

—Meanwhile, the Haymarket meeting, small as it was, 
had lingered past starting time. What a bad night that was, 
threatening, with every minute looking like rain! It was 
the instant threat of rain that had kept people away, and 
those who were there wanted it to start and finish. But, 
you see, they all depended on Parsons, and each discovered 
that he had left it to someone else to get Parsons to the 
meeting. Spies didn't want to start until Parsons came, and 
when someone mentioned the announcement in the Daily 
News, Spies said he would go get Parsons himself. But that 
would have probably taken all the life out of the meeting, 
and they persuaded Spies to start talking while someone 
else looked for Parsons. So Spies began. I don't have to 
repeat what Spies said; there's been enough of that in the 

8 4 


papers. But it's worth recalling that he spoke in the main 
about the eight-hour movement. Because workers were shot 
and clubbed, he didn't say that everything must go; he 
said we have to pull together and fight harder. And he 
described what had happened at McCormick the day be- 
fore. Meanwhile, someone had gotten to Parsons at the 
other meeting. Fielden was there too; he would be, you 
see; even though he's English, he can talk to Americans 
better than I can. Parsons was dog-tired, but he said, all 
right, he'd come back and talk again. Fielden came with 
him. Fielden is a big man, slow to anger, as they say York- 
shiremen are, but what was happening everywhere was 
fermenting in him, and he was bitter. And his bitterness 
came out when he talked. 

—Well, Parsons, with his wife and the two children went 
to Desplaines Street, where Spies' meeting was. The chil- 
dren were very tired by then. Lucy carried one, Parsons 
the other. Yes, I'm telling you this to win your sympathy; 
there's no more time after today, and I'm not ashamed to 
try to win your sympathy. 

—Maybe there were still two thousand people left, 
standing there under the black sky and waiting for Parsons. 
You don't know how that is, but there were times when 
I stood two hours and more, waiting for Parsons to speak. 
There were two wagons there; the speakers used one for a 
platform; men sat on the other, but they made room for 
Lucy Parsons and the children. Spies was relieved to see 
Parsons; you know how you feel when you think you have 
an occasion of such great importance, and the crowd begins 
to slip away. 

—Spies was feeling that way. You've been in politics long 
enough to know that the best man will go to pieces when 
the audience goes, not one by one, but in clumps. Well, 


it was nine (/clock when Parsons stood up to speak, and 
he held them. Think of what the man had been through, 
almost no sleep in about thirty hours, straight from another 
meeting to this one, seeing everything he fought for being 
smashed, knocked out. Still, he spoke— he spoke well too. 
He started in with the eight-hour movement, then he told 
about the workers. I don't think anybody in America 
knows as much about the working people as Parsons. He 
spoke about the growth of monopoly— all right. You've 
read his statement; you know what he spoke about. But 
those transcripts of his speech, lies! He had no written 
speech; he said the things that came to mind, and no one 
took down his words. Yes, the next day they invented a 
speech for him, but that was not Parsons'. 

—And then he finished, and then he introduced Sam 
Fielden. It's interesting, in the way of my sitting here and 
talking to you, to recall what Fielden said, just to mention 
that Fielden spoke about law. The rich man's law, but not 
the poor man's; the rich man's courts but not the poor 
man's. All right, I'll tell about Parsons. You sit and listen 
to me, or maybe you don't listen to me, and think, this 
fool carpenter is wasting your time, but he has political 
influence in the labor party, and you should listen to him, 
not hurt his feelings. Very well. Then let me tell it my 
own way, all of it. 

—Parsons walked over to the wagon as Fielden began to 
speak and picked up the little one. Then it began to rain. 
One of the children began to cry. Now mark this— in the 
light of what happened. With the child in his arms, Par- 
sons walked over to the other platform, where Fielden 
spoke, and said, with the rain coming down, shouldn't they 
go to the hall, Zepf's Hall, where they hold a lot of their 
meetings? He thought that way because he had the baby 



in his arm, because he was so tired. But how can you move 
two thousand people through the streets, then get them 
orderly into a hall? "I'll be through in a few minutes," 
Fielden said. Parsons nodded, but he couldn't stand there 
in the rain with the children. Also, the crowd was breaking 
up. By this time there were maybe six, seven hundred 
people, still standing in the rain and listening. 

—So Parsons, Lucy, the two children, and a friend walked 
away from the meeting to Zepf's Hall. They went to the 
hall only for a moment, to see a few people, and after that 
they were to go home. But it was there they heard the 

—And the explosion, the bomb— you know how that hap- 
pened, or maybe not. It is so long ago that maybe my good 
friend has forgotten. It was while Fielden spoke that almost 
two hundred police, led by Ward and Bonfield, came 
storming into the street. Why? How? What for, with this 
very quiet, peaceful meeting, that was already breaking up 
of its own accord, maybe five hundred people left by now? 
And Ward, at the head of his police ranks, screaming out 
that they should disperse, immediately. What was there for 
Fielden to do? He broke off his speech and began to climb 
down from the wagon. The crowd began to move toward 
the other end of the street. And then the bomb came, 
thrown from God knows where, falling in front of the 
police, killing one of them and wounding so many others. 
Who threw the bomb? For a year and a half, we have heard 
nothing in this city of sorrow but who threw the bomb? 
I swear to you, Judge, by whatever God or force or destiny 
there is, that no one of our people threw the bomb. Yes, 
that is my opinion, and I am prejudiced; I am a working- 
man, of course I am prejudiced. But now, a few hours 
before Parsons is going to die, I swear that. I hate violence; 



I hate men of violence; that you know. So I swear what 
I believe. They— our enemies— they threw the bomb. Look 
at all that has happened since, and see if it could have 
been any other way. Think of what happened a moment 
after the bomb was thrown, how the police drew their guns 
and began to shoot; it made what happened at McCormick's 
the day before seem like nothing! They shot like men gone 
mad. They shot down workingmen and their wives and 
children. We weren't armed; no shots came from bur side. 
But the police kept on shooting, and the crowd broke up 
and ran screaming in all directions. 

"That is the truth," the little carpenter said. "From a 
hundred people who were there, I heard the story. That 
is the truth." 


To himself, Judge Altgeld, staring at the window of his 
study and the morning sunshine outside, said, "That is 
the truth, and this is the truth, and were there ever two 
men who were agreed on what is and what is not the 
truth?" For he had recalled the very ancient legend of the 
four blind men who were taken to an elephant, so that 
they might know this very unusual and wonderful mani- 
festation of nature. These four blind men circled the ele- 
phant warily, attracted yet repelled by its strange scent, by 
its grumbling noises, and by its hoarse breathing. Urged 
on by their friends, they presently approached closer and 
closer, until each had laid hands upon the elephant in one 
fashion or another. Then they came away, wiser men, more 
experienced and learned in the things nature does. How- 
ever, when they began to discuss their great experience, 
no agreement could be reached; for the first blind man 



declared, most confidently, This elephant is very like unto 
a rope. Which was not strange, since he had felt only the 
elephant's tail. The second blind man indignantly de- 
clared, How can you speak of the elephant as a rope, when 
it is most certainly like a tree-trunk! Which was also under- 
standable, for the second blind man had felt the elephant's 
leg. The third blind man only sneered, for, having felt the 
trunk, he knew that this whole business of an elephant 
was a hoax, and that they had merely been shown a snake. 
The fourth blind man, however, refrained from argument, 
muttering and puzzling over the wonder of an animal 
being like a wall, for he had felt the elephant's side. 

This legend came into the Judge's mind as he listened 
to Schilling speak of Parsons, and other things came into 
his mind too; for already he was overdue at court. The 
accusers and the accused waited, and the great body of 
man's rationalization, the law, waited with them. The law 
would be a tool given into his hand, and he would use 
the tool, not as he saw fit, but as those before him had used 
it. Considering now the prospect of his lateness, the fact 
that he should already be on his way, he was overcome by 
a wave of depression; and he turned to Schilling a face that 
was tired and bleak and gray. For now, as if only now coming 
out of sleep, he realized that Parsons and the others would 
surely die; nothing Schilling said could change that; 
nothing he, the Judge, did could change that: yet when 
Schilling looked at him, hesitantly now, Altgeld said: 

"Go ahead. You haven't told me all you want to tell me. 
You told me what I know. Go ahead then, and if you 
believe something to be the truth, you're entitled to such 
a belief; but don't give me oaths. Yours are no better than 
mine, and God knows I have sworn to this and that enough 




Schilling said: 

—I told you how Parsons, his wife, and the two children 
were in Zepf's Hall when they heard the noise the bomb 
made, exploding. A good many people were there in the 
hall. The meeting had just broken up. But when the explo- 
sion came, it was the same with all of us, tight and silent, 
and afraid, too. A black thing hung over the city. War had 
already been declared. We had talked too much about 
organized labor; we had asked for the right to work no 
more than eight hours each day. We were organizing those 
whom no one had ever dreamed of organizing, and men 
were saying aloud that it was right for them to live and 
not starve to death; so for that we had to be broken; we 
had to be taught a lesson; we had to be whipped back into 
the sewers from which we had crawled. Yes— that was our 
reaction when we heard the explosion. And so, for a little 
while, we were silent and afraid, and nobody dared to go 

—And then the first of them came running from Des- 
plaines to tell what had happened. Do you want truth? No 
one could tell a clear story then; some were wounded, some 
beaten and bleeding, some hysterical. A nine-year-old boy 
had his scalp laid open. A big stout woman, Mrs. Crane, 
had a bullet hole in her neck, and yet she had run all the 
way. And more than that— no, it was not nice. 

—But even if no one knew exactly what had happened, 
we knew it meant sorrow; we knew it meant a witch hunt 
and a pig hunt all together, and that they would be after 
us. Hadn't there been enough wild talk of dynamite? Hadn't 
Gould said that hand grenades were the right medicine for 

9 o 


us? Hadn't the City of Chicago been presented with a 
beautiful, shiny new Gatling gun which, as the Tribune 
informed us, could chew up workers faster than a dog 
chews sausage? A bomb had exploded; no one knew who 
threw it, even now no one knows; but it was enough that 
a bomb had exploded. 

—I think Lucy realized first that Parsons had to get away. 
Then others found themselves looking at Parsons. What- 
ever it was, large or small, they would go after Parsons 
first. He knew it; his wife knew it. It did not matter that 
he wasn't there, that he had not even known that such a 
meeting had been scheduled; Parsons was marked. You sit 
in a court of law— you wait for a jury's decision; yet I tell 
you that five years ago this man Albert Parsons had been 
condemned to death, and they were only waiting to execute 
sentence upon him. 

—I tell you this, that even as he realized that he must 
go away, get out of Chicago, hide somewhere, he remem- 
bered that he had no money. I speak of the literal, Judge 
Peter Altgeld. We would sit sometimes with a glass of beer 
and talk of the old days, when we were boys on the road; 
then you know what it is to be without money. I mean 
without money. Without five cents, without ten cents, 
without even two pennies. Yes, a man, a wife, two children. 
How did they live? I told you that before. You are a rich 
man in a graystone house, but I ask for understanding 
even while I insult you. They had no money. Parsons 
whispered with his wife for a few minutes, then with some 
of his friends, and then he had to borrow. He wouldn't 
have borrowed to eat, but he borrowed to save his life. 
Don't you think that the man was afraid; I told you 
enough about him before for you to know differently, and 
I will tell you more later. He had to live because he felt 

9 1 


he had work to do. So he borrowed five dollars, the price 
of freedom, and he went home with his wife and children, 
and then he disappeared. 

—What will you say?— that Parsons shouldn't have gone? 
Then I say that everyone who spoke at that meeting or 
showed his face there should have gone. Or perhaps you've 
forgotten what happened in Chicago during the next few 
days. I wasn't at the meeting— I was no anarchist, as you 
know well enough, yet within a week they were screaming 
for my blood too. Schilling should die; Schilling should be 
strung to the highest lamppost! Of course, we all knew 
that they would be after Parsons first; whatever happened 
in those few days after the first of May, it would have been 
an excuse to get Parsons. But in our wildest dreams and 
fears, we never thought it would be such a witch hunt. 
Yes, we knew they were organized better than we were, 
but we thought that truth was a force. Well, we know 
better now; truth is no force; the force is in men. You read 
the stories they printed, the crazy distortion of fact, how 
they accused the few hundred citizens left around the 
speaker's stand that night of being a bloodthirsty, armed 

—But did you read what they did to the workers in their 
homes? The police went mad, but it was a planned mad- 
ness. This was what they wanted. They held meetings with 
the businessmen, and demanded money, money— and they 
got it, by the thousands. Then they went through Chicago 
like a whirlwind, beating, murdering, torturing, dragging 
people out of their homes in the middle of the night, ar- 
resting anyone and everyone whom they called suspicious. 
A workingman's shirt was all you needed. They filled their 
jails. My God, it was like nothing ever seen in this land, 
and maybe like nothing ever seen in any other land either. 

9 2 


—And you ask why Parsons fled. At least Parsons was 
tried; if he had stayed in Chicago, they would have shot 
him down on the streets like a dog. 

—But to get back to Parsons. He and Lucy left Zepf's 
Hall and went home, still carrying the children, who had 
finally cried themselves to sleep. It might be noted that 
most of the men at Zepf's Hall that night were not anarch- 
ists, not socialists, but members of the Furniture Workers' 
Union, and they thought it was right for Parsons to go, 
they covered him. Mrs. Holmes went with them, and that 
was a good thing, because by now Lucy was going to pieces. 
Parsons himself was half dead from weariness, lack of sleep. 
And when he saw how Lucy was, he changed his mind and 
said he would stay. Then, after they put the children to 
bed, the women pleaded with him. Well, they convinced 
him that he should go. Lucy stayed with the kids, and 
Lizzie Holmes walked with him to the depot, and bought 
him a ticket for Turner Junction. She lived there, and 
her husband was at home. I know this isn't important. I 
just want to tell you, in the best way I can, about people 
who loved Parsons enough to risk their lives for him. 

—You know what happened in the next few days. Every 
Pinkerton in the middle west was thrown into Chicago. 
They arrested maybe a thousand, but it was Parsons they 
wanted, and a Pinkerton who turned him up could have 
had ten thousand dollars from the businessmen's associa- 
tion alone. And when the charge against Parsons became 
murder, then anyone who sheltered him became an acces- 
sory. But just look at the whole thing again, just briefly, 
just with a little more patience, my friend, before I go on 
to finish my story of Parsons. First, they indict thirty-one 
men for this bomb-throwing from which one policeman 
died and God knows how many workers. Then a dozen are 



selected to be charged with wilful murder. But one of them 
has escaped and never returns. Three become witnesses for 
the state. Eight are left, Parsons, August Spies, Michael 
Schwab, Sam Fielden, who learned from me, remember 
that, my friend, Sam Fielden whom I taught to fight for 
his people, Adolph Fischer, George Engel, Oscar Neebe, 
Louis Lingg— those eight are charged with murder. 

—I don't have to go over the trial with you. Better, my 
friend, that some day you will go over that trial, step by 
step, word by word, line by line, and see whether ever 
before such a mockery was made of justice, or what goes 
for justice. No, we'll argue afterward. Now I don't have 
to go into the incredible selection of jurors, the false testi- 
mony, the way Lingg was murdered in his cell, the way 
these men were convicted, and the way their conviction 
was upheld from the lowest to the highest court. Now, 
only, I want to finish my story of Parsons. Only a few 
minutes more. 

—He went to the Holmes' house, where Mr. Holmes 
gave him shelter. There he remained for a few days, and 
then, because it was so close to Chicago, because Mrs. 
Holmes had been arrested, he moved on. He shaved off 
his mustache, became an itinerant worker, and moved on 
to Wisconsin. He stayed with the Hoans, at Waukesha, 
doing odd jobs, turning back to his old trade of carpenter. 
You see, he was sheltered; in eight states, there were men 
who would die for Parsons, and gladly. Am I sentimental? 
How many had told me that when he came into a room, 
it was like Christ entering! Then, because those who had 
trusted him were on trial for their lives, because for him 
there was no life underground, no life apart from the 
working people, no life apart from his wife and children, 
he came back to Chicago and gave himself up. 



—The rest you know, how he appeared in court, how 
he went on trial, and how he was condemned, with the 
others, to be hanged by the neck today until he is dead. 
Then why am I bothering to speak about Parsons at all, 
and why should I bore you with this Haymarket affair, 
you who listen so patiently, when for a year and a half 
now, you have heard so much of it? Only this: when they 
die, something inside of me will die, and I do not want 
that something inside of me to be destroyed. Because you 
are Judge Pete Altgeld, and because I believe you are a 
different kind from the men I see in power. 

—So I put in my pocket a statement from Captain Black, 
their lawyer. Last Tuesday, just before Lingg was found 
dead in his cell, Black went to see Parsons and begged him 
to plead for executive clemency. Because now people are 
being troubled that something like a saint should die. 
They are remembering that Christ was also accursed to 
those who ruled. So they say, if only Parsons pleaded for 
mercy, the governor would have pardoned him. Black went 
to Parsons and begged him to plead for mercy. Because if 
Parsons dies, something will die inside of Black too. But 
Parsons refused. It's a terrible thing to die, so how can I 
say it so simply? Parsons refused; he would not plead for 
his life. He explained why, and afterwards Black wrote 
down what he said. I just want to read that to you, and 
then I am through. 


On the Judge's mantel, the clock, cradled between the 
expressionless busts of Minerva and Augustus, began to 
strike ten. The two men listened to the strokes. Schilling 
was drawing the paper from his pocket, and the Judge, as 



if loath to confront him, kept staring at the fireplace, where 
already only embers remained from the fine log. 

"Shall I read it?" Schilling asked. 

"I've missed court already." 

"Maybe I've talked too much." 

"Go ahead and read it," the Judge said coldly. 

"All right," Schilling nodded. "Here is Parsons' state- 
ment. He said to Black: 'Captain, I know that you are 
right. I know that if I should sign this application for 
pardon, my sentence would be commuted. No longer ago 
than last Sunday night Melville E. Stone, the editor of the 
Daily News, spent nearly two hours in my cell, urging me 
to sign a petition, and assuring me that if I would do so 
I should have his influence and the influence of his paper 
in favor of the commutation of my sentence; and I know 
that means that my sentence would be commuted. But I 
will not do it. My mind is firmly and irrevocably made up, 
and I beg you to urge me no further upon the subject. I 
am an innocent man— innocent of this offense of which I 
have been found guilty by the jury, and the world knows 
my innocence. If I am to be executed at all, it is because 
I am an anarchist, not because I am a murderer; it is be- 
cause of what I have taught and spoken and written in the 
past, and not because of the throwing of the Haymarket 
bomb. I can afford to be hung for the sake of the ideas I 
hold and the cause I have espoused if the people of the 
State of Illinois can afford to hang an innocent man who 
voluntarily placed himself in their power. 

" 'And I will tell you, Captain, what is the real secret of 
my position, but in confidence. I do not want anything 
said about it until after the 1 ith. I have a hope— mark you, 
it is a very faint hope— but yet I do hope my attitude may 
result in the saving of those other boys— Lingg, Engel and 

9 6 


Fischer. Spies, Fielden and Schwab have already signed a 
petition for clemency. And if I should now separate myself 
from Lingg, Engel and Fischer, and sign a petition upon 
which the Governor could commute my sentence, I know 
,that it would mean absolute doom to the others— that 
Lingg, Engel and Fischer would inevitably be hung. So I 
have determined to make their cause and their fate my 
own. I know the chances are 999 in 1 ,000 that I will swing 
with them; that there isn't one chance in a thousand of 
my saving them; but if they can be saved at all it is by my 
standing with them, so that whatever action is taken in my 
case may with equal propriety be taken in theirs. I will 
not, therefore, do anything that will separate me from 
them. I expect that the result will be that I shall hang 
with them, but I am ready.' " 

Schilling finished, folded the paper, and said, "That is 
all." But the Judge was staring intently at the fire, and the 
ticking of the clock seemed to fill the entire room. 

"That is all," Schilling said. "In a little while, Parsons 
will be hanged. In another hour, I think." 


"Five days ago, they murdered Louis Lingg, who was 
to die with the men today. That was not clever; that was 
stupid. When such things happen, even a judge in a stone 
house isn't safe." 

"Now you're out of your head!" Altgeld said angrily, 
glad at last to have something to strike back with. "Lingg 
committed suicide, and when he did it, he killed whatever 
chance Parsons and the others had." 

"Suicide! Has a man ever in this world committed 
suicide by putting a dynamite fuse in his mouth and ig- 
niting it, so that with half his face torn away he suffered 
the tortures of the damned before he died? And for effect, 



there were little dynamite bombs found all over his cell. 
My God, Pete, will you listen to me? They saw that maybe 
it would be a terrible thing if Parsons and the others died; 
they saw sympathy was changing. So they went into Lingg's 
cell, beat him unconscious, planted those ridiculous little 
bombs all around the cell, placed a fuse in his mouth, and 
killed him. You live in a land where this happens. How 
will you sleep at night?" 

"You're excited," the Judge said. "Calm down." 

"I'm excited— yes, I'm excited. I look at that clock over 
there and count the minutes before they kill four men. 
I'm excited! I came to you because I believe in you, 
because I said to myself Pete Altgeld can pull down the 
walls of that jail, even now." 

"I can't." 

"You could go to your phone. You could call the gov- 
ernor. You could fight! They might listen to you. No one 
in this city is happy today." 

"It would do no good." 

Watching the Judge's face, anxiously, keenly, Schilling 
accepted a verdict, appeared to grow old and tired at once, 
and at the same time rose to go. 

"Wait a minute," the Judge said. 

"For what?" 

"Let me say one word for myself, George! What kind of 
a son of a bitch do you think I am?" 

"It doesn't matter." 

"You got a fire inside you, and you think anything you 
touch will burn. My God, man, be sane! What good would 
it do if I called the governor? Don't you understand there's 
nothing I can do now? Nothing! It's too late. If you want 
to blame me for before, then blame me. Ask me why I 



didn't sign the petition. Ask me why I didn't let my voice 
be heard." 

Schilling shook his head. 

"Now it's too late for me to do anything, George." 

"I got to go," Schilling said. 

"Why don't you stay here? Let me give you a drink." 

"I got to go," Schilling repeated. 

"Sit down." 

"It's all right," Schilling said, smiling slightly. "I'll see 
you tomorrow, the next day. I'm not angry at you. But I 
got to go." 

"I could explain more fully—" 

"You don't have to explain." 

"Only the world doesn't end because Parsons dies. Pull 
yourself together. Even if these men are saints, the thing 
they represent is our enemy—" 

"And that justifies their death?" 

"Maybe it does. Justice isn't an abstraction, it's a function 

"Go on," Schilling said. 

"George, go home and get some rest." 

Emma came into the room. She stood at the doorway, 
watching them for a moment, and then she said, "George, 
will you have something to eat?" 

He shook his head. "Thank you, Emma." 

"Peters is on the phone— from court." 

"Tell him to adjourn for the day." 

"A reporter from the Inter-Ocean called," she said 
quietly. "He wanted to know if you have any statement 
on the execution." She hesitated a moment, and then 
added, "I told him, no." 

"Thank you, Emma," the Judge said. 



Schilling began to go. It was half past ten. The Judge 
asked, "Where are you going, George?" and the little car- 
penter answered, "I don't know." "I'm sorry, George." "It 
doesn't matter now," Schilling said. "I think I'll go out 
and walk for a while. It's a nice day." And then he left. 
Emma went to the door with him. When she came back, 
the Judge was still sitting as she had left him. 

"Has it happened yet?" she asked. 

"No— in a little while, I suppose." 

"Schilling wanted you to do something, didn't he?" 


"Can you do anything?" 

The Judge shook his head. 

"I don't think Schilling is angry with you," she said. 
"He has very high regard for you." 

"Yes, I suppose so." 

"Anyway, this horrible thing will be over." 

"It will be over," the Judge said. 

"I called Joe Martin's office, but he had left. I didn't 
want to say where he was in front of Schilling. He went 
to witness the hanging. I think that's disgusting. His secre- 
tary was very much excited. She said she'd get a message 
to him, and he'd come here later. Peters was pleased with 
having a holiday. Will you have lunch at home?" 

"If you don't mind," the Judge said. 


Not long before this day, Judge Altgeld and his friend, 
Judge Lambert Tree, had lunched with Phil Armour, the 
great pork and beef king. Though both Altgeld and Tree 
were persons of note in Chicago, Armour maintained an 
attitude of amused condescension all during the meal. Alt- 



geld, with all his innate dignity, found himself cringing 
under Armour's patronage, and when he tried to hit back, 
with wit, with sarcasm, with knowledge, he found Armour's 
bulk impervious to attack of that sort. In this fashion, 
Armour spoke of Altgeld's book, Our Penal Machinery 
and its Victims: 

"I hear you been writing, Altgeld. Got a book out." 

"That's so," Altgeld said. 

"No harm in writing. I suppose you've done some writ- 
ing too, Tree." 

"Very little," Judge Tree said. 

"I don't mind you boys writing," Armour said. "As a 
matter of fact, the ladies are kind of impressed by your 
book, Altgeld. We like a judge to show some brains— after 
the kind King Mike McDonald dropped on us. A judge 
isn't just a cheap ward politician; you boys got to get up 
there and show your faces each day." 

"I see," Altgeld said. He was incapable of saying any- 
thing more. 

"But there's a time and a place," Armour continued. 
"We have some very bad elements here in Chicago." 

"Yes, I guess we have." 

"Nothing else to do but to make a decent, law-abiding 
city out of it. A place where a workingman can do a fair 
day's work for a fair day's wages, without worrying about 
having his throat cut." 

Altgeld could only nod. 

"And for that, we need a police force," Armour went on. 
"Pretty fine fellers on the force. They're not helped by 
psalm-singing for the poor, abused criminal. Jesus God, 
Altgeld, there's no point in attacking jails. It won't help 
your career to become a damned reformer. Charity is one 
thing; you could live five years on what I give charity in 



one; but when you attack the very foundation of society, 
then you sound damn like a communist." 

"And you consider jails to be the foundation of society?" 
Altgeld asked lamely. 

"Law and order. That's what I refer to, law and order. 
When we make a judge, we expect him to stand for law 
and order. When we break him, it's because he doesn't 
stand for those things. There's a lot of talk about you 
being a radical. We don't like that kind of talk." 

"Whom do you mean by 'we'?" Altgeld asked. 

Armour spread his hands and smiled. "You know what 
I say— I say, no hard feelings. Have your secretary send me 
a bill; I'll buy a few hundred copies of the book myself. 
Maybe your next book will be about honest, hard-working 
citizens. I don't want to discourage you, young man. Now 
how about a brandy?" 

And Altgeld, raging inside, sat there, impotent; now he 
recalled that luncheon and mixed thoughts of it with 
thoughts of the four men who were about to die. Schilling 
had come and spoken and gone, and now Altgeld won- 
dered how much truth there was in Schilling's contention 
that he, one man, at this eleventh hour, could reverse the 
course of the law, or even halt it. Much of what Schilling 
had said he agreed with. Judge Gary, who tried the case 
of the Haymarket defendants, had been flagrantly partisan. 
The question of who threw the bomb had been crudely 
moved aside, and eight men were condemned to death, not 
because they were murderers, but because they were mili- 
tant leaders of labor and therefore enemies of one part of 
society; so it was put up to him, Pete Altgeld, whether they 
were his enemies too. Even if he could truthfully tell him- 
self that anything he might have attempted would have 
been futile— as futile as the attempts of his friend, Judge 



Tree, to gain mercy for the condemned men— he still faced 
the question of how he would have acted had he been in 
another position, as for example in the position of Gov- 
ernor Oglesby. That was the question which stirred a 
hundred doubts inside of him, mixing so curiously with 
his recollection of Phil Armour, and what Armour had 
said, and the matter-of-fact disposal of democracy, which 
contends that servants of the people are elected by the 
people, not made by a handful of men. And while cynicism 
was easy in the normal course of things, and taken for 
granted in the normal course of things, so that one never 
raised one's voice against the pattern in which one lived, 
the pattern of adultery mixed with respectability, of graft 
mixed with the time-worn democratic slogans, of vice sup- 
porting charity and religion, and religion by inaction con- 
doning vice, of filth and suffering and death turned into 
profits and men turned into beasts; while these matters 
and a hundred more like them were accepted easily and 
naturally day in and day out, today they became symbols 
of four men close to death: and thereby they stuck in a 
man's craw rather than sliding easily down his throat. They 
stuck in Judge Altgeld's craw, and what had been only a 
few hours ago a lovely fall day now turned sour and 

He could not deny that he was a success, nor could he 
tell himself that he did not enjoy the very practical fruits 
of success. All of his life, until now, he had fought for 
these things; born with nothing, raised with a lash, he had 
broken through; he was here. He was in his stone house, 
secure and comfortable. There were beautiful things in his 
house; there was food, many kinds of food, all of it very good 
to eat, and if he should want other food, he had only to 
say so. There was warmth in the house; there was comfort 



too. There was his wife, so very good-looking and well 
bred, and there were the many friends she had made for 
him, also well bred, people of substance if in some cases 
tedious, and they accepted him and did not remind him of 
his origins, and played cards with him and gave him their 
legal business. Nor did his wife resent his having friends 
of another kind, like Joe Martin, the gambler, or Schilling, 
the labor leader, or Bro Kelly, the ward-heeler who was a 
political genius; and all of his friends, even Schilling, paid 
tribute to his success and position. What if he had mem- 
ories! All men had memories, and memories were as im- 
practical as abstract justice. Why did he resent Armour's 
bluntly pointing out that these things he had were retained 
by the grace of certain individuals, and that his compact 
with those same individuals must be a real one, not an 
illusory one? 

Yet, in the essence of it, he hated not so much Armour 
as what Armour stood for; and now this hatred burned 
through all his thoughts. Reason he might— but in the end 
what came out? He was a dirty, cheap political climber. 
He had to tell himself, "Accept that, Altgeld, accept it!" 
He stood up and paced back and forth, watching the clock. 
Then he sat down in his chair, still watching the clock. 
The minutes ticked off, and during one of those minutes, 
four men died. 

His wife called him to lunch, but he ate only a few 
mouthfuls. Then he went back to his study. 


Joe Martin stretched out his feet to the fire and lit a 
cigar. As he took the first few puffs, he watched Altgeld 
shrewdly. Then it was a little after two o'clock. 



"What time did they die?" Altgeld asked. 

"About noon." 

"Was it bad?" 

"The first time I saw an execution. The last too." 

"It was that bad?" 

"Well, that's a peculiar way to put it. I don't like execu- 
tions. I can see men die, but not after they've known about 
it for months, and also know just when the trap's going to 
be sprung." 

"What about Parsons?" 

"He died game. They all did." 

"Did he say anything?" 

"Last words? I don't know. There were about two hun- 
dred people in there, watching. I was in back with Kelly. 
Just about that time, Kelly was asking me if I thought any 
of them was Catholic; I didn't know. Afterward someone 
said that Parsons demanded that they let him speak, and 
then they sprung the trap. But I heard Spies. He sounded 
off right across the yard. Do you know what he said?" 


"He said, there will come a time when our silence will 
be more powerful than the voices you strangle today. You 
know, funny thing about those damn reds, they got a kind 
of guts I never seen. Take Parsons; I went into his cell this 
morning with Wertzer of the Tribune. Wertzer said he 
was going to sketch him today, come hell or high water. I 
felt funny about it, but Wertzer said, you want to see this 
character, don't you, you want to be able to tell your 
grandchildren you seen him. There was also the little 
matter that Wertzer couldn't get in without me pulling 
the strings. So we come in there, and this Parsons— he could 
go on the stage with that face of his— is sitting there at a 
little table, dressed, shaved, wearing slippers, and writing. 



Al, the guard says, Al, there's a guy here from the Tribune 
to draw you. Meanwhile, the guard nudges me. Pete, I 
felt mad, so damn mad I could have laid out him and 
Wertzer, right there. I never liked Wertzer; he's a little 
snotnose, and I felt like a damn fool for being pulled into 
this. But Parsons isn't disturbed. He puts down his pen, 
turns to face us, smiles a little, and begins to roll a ciga- 
rette. I feel you can tell a lot from the way a man rolls; 
Parsons does it carefully and slowly; doesn't lose any 
tobacco, seals it with one swipe, and lights it on one match. 
I want to sketch you, Mr. Parsons, Wertzer says. This is the 
last chance to break the news— the little son of a bitch! 
But Parsons takes it calmly. I have some work to do, he 
says, and not much time. Wertzer says, It's a living, Mr. 
Parsons. I got to come in with my assignment, or I'll be 
out of a job too. So Parsons nods and says, all right. I know 
what it is to have to take an assignment. And all the time 
Wertzer sketches him, I'm standing there— my God, Pete, 
I never felt like that before. Once Parsons looks at me kind 
of peculiar and says, You're Joe Martin? I say, Right. I met 
you once, he says, but I guess you don't remember. But 
I swear to God, Pete, he was not afraid. Look, I don't like 
a communist any better than the next man, but I wouldn't 
have the guts to sit there and know that I was going to 
die in a few hours, and then carry it off the way he did." 

"You're a gambler—" 

''Sure, but you're not playing for a break when you got 
a rope around your neck." 

Altgeld rose, went to the fire, and poked it alive. Then, 
still crouched, he faced Martin, as if the thought had just 
occurred to him. "J oe > I want you to tell me the truth. 
You know it, if any man does. Did the police murder 



Martin leaned back and puffed on his cigar. Altgeld 
straightened up and stood there, one arm on the mantel, 
looking at the sheeplike features of Augustus. 


"That's a hell of a question, Pete. What do you think?" 

"I know what I think. I know what anyone with any 
brains in this city thinks. I know what happened too. But 
when you've sat on a bench for even a month, you know 
what circumstantial evidence is worth. There were eight 
so-called anarchists tried and condemned to death to begin 
with. Then public opinion began to be felt; it's as amusing 
as hell that we still have something left in this country 
which is called public opinion and which can be felt, but 
we have. So the sentences of three of these men, Fielden, 
Schwab, and Neebe are commuted. They can rot in jail, 
but jail is one thing and legal murder is another, and public 
opinion is appeased— just a little. And no harm is done, 
since the two they want to get, Parsons and Spies, are still 
on their way to the gallows. But then, there's more of this 
public opinion, mass meetings, petitions, pleas, messages 
from other countries. And then, very suddenly, Louis 
Lingg is found dying in his cell, half his face blown off 
by a dynamite fuse, and little bombs are cached all over 
his cell. So public opinion is diverted, and it is proved 
that once a bomb-thrower always a bomb-thrower, even if 
he throws them into his own mouth and closes it forever. 
Don't smile. I'm a judge; and I say this man committed 
suicide until it is proved otherwise." 

"What do you want, a signed statement?" Martin asked 

"I asked you a question." 

"It's still one hell of a question. Suppose I knew. Sup- 
pose I even knew who threw the bomb. Would I tell you, 



Pete? I like you; I've said it and I'll say it to your face— 
there's only one politician in Illinois I trust, and that's 
Pete Altgeld; but I don't trust you that much. I play my 
cards, you see, but I hold them close. My big stake is down 
there in City Hall; I never ratted on anyone, Pete." 

"That's all?" 

"No. I'll tell you what I think; I think that before a 
man killed himself by putting a dynamite charge in his 
mouth, you'd have to club him quiet and pry his jaws 
open. All right. These four gents are dead. I watched them 
die. And in the past year, I heard a lot of loose talk about 
them. But I don't talk loose; I found it pays off to keep 
your mouth shut. A lot of big operators will sleep sound 
tonight. I may hate their guts, but I got no quarrel with 
them. I'm just a gambler— a tinhorn gambler." 

"And I'm a tinhorn politician." 

"Some might say that," Martin agreed softly. 

For a while, Martin smoked placidly and quietly, Altgeld 
watching him from his place by the mantel. Then the 
Judge walked to a chair, sat down, and said, very precisely: 

"Joe, what kind of a stake would you play me for?" 

"A damn big one." 

"How far do you think I'll go?" 

"If you keep your head and play it level, a long way." 

"How far?" 

"How far do you want to go? If you were born in this 
country, I'd say maybe to the White House. As it is, the 
Senate, if you want that, or the governor's mansion." 

"How do I play it?" 

"You play it for all it's worth, that's all. Or you play it 
safe. Sometimes they play it safe, and the big operators 
like that better." 



"But either way, it's the big operators?" 
"What do you think?" Joe Martin said. 


This took place on Friday; the next day, newspapers, in 
addition to detailed accounts of the execution and many 
editorials on the men who had died, law and order, democ- 
racy, the Constitution and its many amendments— some of 
which are called the Bill of Rights— the Revolution, the 
Founding Fathers, and the War Between the States, carried 
notices of the funeral. The city authorities had allowed 
relatives and friends to reclaim the bodies of the five dead 
men, Lingg, who had died in his cell, Parsons, Spies, Engel, 
and Fischer. The city permitted these same friends and 
relatives to hold a public funeral, if they so pleased. Mayor 
Roche named a series of streets along which the funeral 
procession might proceed on its way to Waldheim Ceme- 
tery. The hours were from twelve to two o'clock. No music 
except funeral dirges might be played; no arms were to 
be borne; no signs or banners were to be displayed. It was 
to be expected, the newspapers said, that even though these 
men were the proven enemies of society, criminals, mur- 
derers, a few hundred people might well turn out to wit- 
ness the last rites. And in accordance with that part of the 
Constitution which guarantees freedom of religion, it was 
only just to allow those rites to take place. 

On Sunday, the judge told his wife that he was going 
out for a stroll; and though Emma suspected where the 
stroll would take him, she said nothing, nor did she remark 
that it was curious, his wanting to go out alone on a 
Sunday morning. As a matter of fact, it was not so curious; 
making for the line of march, he realized that he was only 


one of many, many thousands of Chicago citizens; and 
presently it seemed that nearly half the city would be 
lined up along the drab, dirty streets, waiting for the 

It was a cold morning; that and the fact that he had 
little desire to be seen made him turn up the collar of his 
coat and pull his hat down. He jammed his hands into his 
pockets, shifted from one chilled foot to another, and 

Presently, the funeral procession came into sight. It was 
not what he might have expected; certainly not what the 
city authorities expected when they granted permission for 
the funeral to be held. There was no music, no sound 
other than the slow tread of feet and the soft sobbing of 
women. And with that, all other sounds, all other noises 
appeared to die away, as if a great and woeful pall of 
silence overhung the whole city. 

First, there came a man with a flag, the only flag in the 
whole procession, a worn and faded Stars and Stripes that 
had marched proudly at the head of a regiment in the 
Civil War; and the man who carried it was a veteran, a 
middle-aged man with a face like gray stone. 

Then came the hearses and the caskets; then the car- 
riages in which the families rode. They were old, open 
carriages. In one of them Altgeld saw Lucy Parsons, sitting 
with her two children, staring straight ahead of her. 

Then came the close friends, the comrades of those who 
had died. They walked four abreast, and their faces too 
were gray, like the face of the Civil War veteran. 

Then came a group of well-dressed men and women, 
many of whom Altgeld knew and recognized. They were 
lawyers, judges, doctors, teachers, small businessmen, and 



many others who had come into the fight to save the five 
dead men. 

Then came the workers, and to them, apparently, there 
was no end. They were from the packing houses, the lum- 
ber yards, the McCormick plant, and the Pullman plant; 
they were from the mills, the fertilizer pits, the railyards, 
and the canneries; they were from the flophouses of the un- 
employed, from the road, from the wheatfields, from the 
streets of Chicago and a dozen other cities. Many were in 
their best, the one good suit, the black suit in which they 
were married; many had their wives with them; children 
walked with them too, and some carried children in their 
arms. But there were enough who had no other clothes than 
the clothes they worked in, and they wore their overalls, 
their blue jeans, and their flannel shirts. There were cow- 
hands who had ridden five hundred miles and more to Chi- 
cago, thinking that where men believed and willed, this 
thing could be stopped; and when it had not been stopped, 
they stayed to walk in the procession in their awkward, high- 
heeled boots. There were red-faced farmers from the 
prairies about the city, there were locomotive engineers, 
and there were sailors from the Great Lakes. 

There were also hundreds and hundreds of policemen 
and Pinkerton operatives along the line of march, but 
when they saw this they stood quietly, put away the guns 
they had in their hands, and stared at the ground. 

For the workers were quiet. You could hear their breath- 
ing and you could hear the crunching tread of their feet, 
but there was no word you could hear. No one spoke; not 
the men, not the women, not even the children. Nor did 
any of the people who lined the streets break the silence. 

And still the workers came on. For an hour Altgeld 



stood there, and still they came, shoulder to shoulder, their 
faces like stone, the tears running slowly and unwiped. 
Another hour, yet there was no end to them; how many 
thousands had passed, he could not guess, nor could he 
guess how many thousands more were to come; but he 
knew one thing: that never before in the history of the 
land, not even when the most beloved of all leaders, Abe 
Lincoln, had died, was there such a funeral as this. 

IT2 , 

Part Three 



the first part of March of 1893, a lawyer, Clarence Darrow 
by name, walked across the lawn in front of the Statehouse 
at Springfield, mounted the steps, entered, and in a firm 
and crisp tone announced that he desired to see the Gov- 
ernor. His manner was so preconceived and so intent that 
the Governor's secretary, who knew Darrow, grinned and 
asked, as one well might, "Is something burning?" 

"That's right." 

"Does he expect you?" 

"He expects me," Darrow said. "I phoned and told him 
I was coming. Won't he see me?" 

"Sure he'll see you. Catch your breath. Sit down." 

Darrow seated himself in the reception room, and re- 
peated over and over, in his mind, just what he intended 
to say. Lest his heat cool and his courage vanish, he en- 
larged upon what he had originally intended, and, still in 
his mind, he directed the conversation, phrase by phrase, 
to the conclusion he intended. All of this served to anger 
him, and when he was finally ushered into the Governor's 
office, he felt more like a judge than a pleader at the bar. 
But the Governor, who had not long ago been a judge, 
smiled and extended his hand: 



"Good to see you, Clarence." 

"Good to see you, sir/' he nodded, thinking that for one 
who had recently been ill, as the result of the most dy- 
namic gubernatorial campaign the State of Illinois had 
ever known, Governor John Peter Altgeld looked sur- 
prisingly well, surprisingly fit, his blue eyes as alert as ever, 
his handshake as firm and as warm. As some said, he 
showed signs of age, signs of the recurrent bouts of malaria 
he constantly faced, and there were streaks of gray in his 
beard; but there was no doubting the fact that he was one 
of those men whom age improved, at least in physical 
appearance, and Darrow could well understand the pleas- 
ure so many got from simply looking at that face of his; 
but, perversely, this too increased the lawyer's annoyance, 
and though Darrow was less than ten years younger than 
the Governor, who was forty-five, he felt like an indignant 
boy before a very mature man— the more so when Altgeld 

"I thought this might be a social call, but it isn't, is it, 

"No, it isn't." 


"You might call it that." 

"Well, sit down then. You want a cigar?" 

"No. I'd rather stand." 

"All right." 

The Governor sat behind his desk. Staring at the edge of 
the desk, not at the Governor, Darrow said, "It's about the 
Haymarket people, about Fielden and Schwab and Neebe." 

"Is it? What about them?" Just the trace of an edge had 
come into the Governor's voice, not too much; he liked 
Darrow; he liked him immensely, though not entirely as 



a friend; those who knew the Governor well also knew that 
he had very few friends in the real sense of the word. 

"They're still in jail," Darrow said. 

"I know they're in jail." 

"This isn't pleasant for me," Darrow said, still avoiding 
the Governor's eyes. "It's no more pleasant for me than 
it is for you. But maybe someone has to remind you." 

"Remind me of what?" the Governor asked. 

"Of the fact," Darrow rushed on, "that thousands of us 
voted for you for governor because it was understood that 
you would pardon these three men. It's three months since 
you took office—" 

"How was it understood?" Altgeld asked. "I don't seem 
to have understood it." 

Darrow reacted quickly and antagonistically; his face 
and eyes told the Governor as much as words. 

"Wait a minute, wait a minute," Altgeld said. He was 
keeping his own temper in leash. "Before you write me 
off as a Judas, recall what I said. I said I'll look into this. 
I said I'll examine the case of the anarchists. Don't pull 
a knight in armor on me; I know how you feel about this. 
You're in a good spot to feel that way." 

"What do you mean?" 

"I mean that if and when I pardon those three men, the 
world will fall down around my ears." 

"I don't agree with that," Darrow said. 

"No? You come storming in here to tell me what you do 
and don't agree with. I made no promises! What you 
thought— my God, I sit and listen, and I ought to throw 
you to hell out!" 

"All right," Darrow said. "All right. Throw me out." 

"Don't be an idiot. Sit down. Talk sense." 

Darrow said, "Sit down and talk sense, yes. Sit down and 



be made to feel like a damn fool for coming in here and 
walking where the angels fear to tread. Why don't you 
remind me what an ungrateful swine I am? Who started 
me in politics— Altgeld. Who put me where I am now— 

"I wasn't going to remind you. Only of the fact that I 
never promised to pardon the anarchists. That's all. I 
never promised. I'll look into the case. Then I'll do what 
I think should be done." 

"That's all?" 

"Yes, that's all. Damn it all, Clarence, don't be an idiot. 
Don't talk to me about justice. Those men are in jail for 
the same reason Parsons and the others died, because it 
suits the best interests of a lot of very powerful gentlemen. 
I knew that five years ago; should I be more ignorant of it 
now that I'm Governor? Should I throw away everything 
I've fought for, hoped for, dreamed of because you have 
a sentimental ax to grind?" 

"Everyone would support you—" 

"Don't be a fool! No one will support me." 

"The people elected you." 

"What kind of drivel are you talking? If there's one 
thing on God's earth that I know by now, it's politics. So 
don't extend your homilies to me. When Cregier was 
elected mayor, and you as a result of that election got your 
job with the city, it was not the people of Chicago who 
elected him, but me— on my own. Do I have to repeat the 
lesson for you? I made the Anti-Machine Ticket; I created 
it; I paid for it, five thousand dollars and cheap at the 
price; and I did it because I hate Roche's guts. So don't 
give me lessons in politics or in political morality. Parsons 
believed in morality, and he is dead as a doornail." 

"I see," Darrow nodded. 



"You don't see a devil of a lot," Altgeld said. 


Yet he smarted after Clarence Darrow had gone. The 
young fool, to come in like that, to presume! To do it like 
a knight crusader, and to walk out with righteous indig- 
nation cloaking him! Childish as it was, Altgeld counted 
score against Darrow; by what right did he presume? He, 
Darrow, was a corporation lawyer; his interest in the three 
Haymarket survivors was romantic and idealistic, while 
the very people he served had originally led the blood 
hunt; yet he dared to speak of understandings. There was 
no understanding, the Governor repeated to himself; my 
hands are clean; they knew what they were getting: they 
were getting a politician who could bring the party into 

Sitting at his desk now, in the Governor's office, he put 
the label of politician on himself unashamedly. He had 
learned a trade, and he had learned it well, and he had no 
illusions, and he had a measure of contempt for those who 
lived by illusions. It often took a long time for a man to 
see things clearly, but when at last he saw them clearly, 
if his stomach was strong enough, he could go a long way, 
a remarkably long way. 

As long as the road John Peter Altgeld had traveled; 
and where that road ended he still did not know, whether 
in the United States Senate, or in the cabinet, or in some 
other place equally high and equally hollow; for after a 
point, it ceased to be a process of selling out. The ethic and 
the mor^ity were laid aside; you played the game within 
its framework, and within that framework it could even be 
pleasant and life could present a good many compensa- 



tions. It could have the tense excitement of his triumph 
over Mayor Roche of Chicago, where, single-handed, he 
had split the regular ticket, set up a completely opportunist 
liberal ticket, handpicked his lesser candidates, second-rate 
reformers who had no chance of election, and then headed 
his ticket with the regular party candidate he supported. 
Twelve thousand of the liberal Chicago votes fell for his 
"anti-machine" bait, and voted for the machine candidate 
he supported. And when it was over, only a dozen men 
in Chicago knew that Pete Altgeld had pulled the strings; 
but the dozen men were important, and the tribute they 
paid him, over their cigars, in their clubs, and in the back 
rooms where whisky mingled with rewards, was worth more 
than a million dollars in cold cash. As to the price of his 
revenge on Mayor Roche, that could not be estimated; for 
Roche had committed the worst kind of betrayal that a 
man in Altgeld's circle could commit— he had fought and 
exposed Altgeld on a small piece of the mountain of spoils 
each and every politician concerned with Chicago squeezed 
out of its citizens. 


Leaning back in his leather seat after Clarence Darrow 
had left, Altgeld turned over in his mind the case of these 
three men, Neebe, Fielden, and Schwab, three men in 
prison who remained as a gnawing echo of the famous, or 
perhaps infamous, Haymarket bombing. Do as he would, 
Darrow's attack had an effect on him; and what Darrow 
had said was in the thoughts of many others. 

A long time ago, his wife had said that this Haymarket 
thing was like a sickness pervading all of Chicago, yet 



when the men died the sickness was not, as so many thought, 
cured. Not only did three living reminders remain in 
prison, but the presence of Parsons, dead though he was, 
would not leave Chicago. Parsons lived in the stonegray 
faces of the men who had marched in his funeral; he lived 
in the badly printed circulars; he lived in the picket lines, 
becoming more and more common in Chicago; he lived 
in his wife too. It would have been romantic to say that 
Altgeld dwelled overheavily on Parsons, once Parsons was 
dead; the Judge was a busy man, a successful man, a rich 
man; as he was fond of telling his friends, he lived a very 
full life. But now and again, that dark, handsome face 
intruded, and since no words were spoken, no accusations 
made, Judge Altgeld could not beat it down as he had 
beaten down those others who opposed him. 

Three times, too, in the six years gone by, he had met 
Lucy Parsons. That was not strange, since Lucy Parsons, 
after her husband's death, became as much a part of Chi- 
cago as the dirty streets, the unspeakable slums, and the 
packing houses. Her dark face, aged considerably, became 
more Indian-like than ever; and she hid her sorrow under 
a tight, pain-drawn mask. 

The first time Altgeld met her, he did not know who 
she was, but stopped on the street, his attention arrested 
by the intense face of the woman as well as by what she 
was saying. She wore an old and ragged man's coat which 
was fastened at the throat with a large blanket-pin. Her 
hair was wrapped in a kerchief, and the sole of one shoe 
was held on by a piece of string. Next to her was a small 
wooden stand, piled high with books. It was a cold winter's 
day, with twilight hard by, and the few people on the 
streets were hurrying to the warmth of their homes and 

n 9 


families. But the title on the books caught Altgeld's eye, 
and that, in conjunction with the woman's words, "Justice 
shall not perish from the earth while a spark of courage 
remains—" made him pause and pick one up. The title of 
the book was Life of Albert R. Parsons. 

"How much is it?" he asked. 

"A dollar. But take more than one. Take more than 
one and strike a blow for freedom. Give it away." 

He got a dollar out of his wallet, but when the woman 
saw the rich leather, the gold corners, the fat stack of bills 
inside, her face changed. She gave him the book and said 
no more, except to answer him, when he asked wasn't she 
Mrs. Parsons, with: 

"Yes, I'm his wife." 

He tried to give her five dollars; and when she refused 
it, he found himself walking away very quickly. At home, 
he glanced through the book. Published by Lucy Parsons- 
how, with what funds, he could not imagine— it was a com- 
pilation of Parsons' writings, newspaper articles, letters, 
and speeches, along with some comments and poems cer- 
tain friends had sent her. He read only fragments of it, 
yet two parts remained in his mind. The first was the dedi- 
cation of the book, to Parsons by his wife: "This book is 
lovingly dedicated to the sacred memory of one whose only 
crime was that he lived in advance of his time, my beloved 
husband, companion and comrade, Albert R. Parsons." 
The other part that Altgeld remembered so vividly was 
the facsimile reproduction of Parsons' last letter to his 
children, both what it said and the amazing gentleness of 
the handwriting; for, as he remarked almost shamefacedly 
to Emma, in the very manner in which the letters were 
formed was something close to a benediction apart from 
these words: 



Dungeon No. 7 
Cook County Jail 
Chicago, 111. Nov. gth. 1887 

To my Darling, Precious Children: 

Albert R. Parsons jr. and his sister, 
Lulu Eda Parsons: 

As I write this word I blot your names with a 
tear. We never meet again. Oh, my children, how 
deeply, dearly your Papa loves you. We show our 
love by living for our loved ones, we also prove our 
love by dying, when necessary, for them. Of my 
life and the cause of my unnatural and cruel death, 
you will learn from others. Your Father is a self- 
offered Sacrifice upon the Altar of Liberty and 
Happiness. To you, I leave the legacy of an honest 
name and duty done. Preserve it, emulate it. Be 
true to yourselves, you cannot then be false to 
others. Be industrious, sober and cheerful. Your 
mother! Ah, she is the grandest, noblest of women. 
Love, honor and obey her. 

My children, my precious ones, I request you to 
read this parting message on each recurring anni- 
versary of my Death in remembrance of him who 
dies not alone for you, but for the children yet un- 
born. Bless you, my Darlings. Farewell. 

Your Father, Albert R. Parsons. 

Emma, however, was not impressed by this letter, and 
Altgeld, though he read it to himself a dozen times over, 
did not press his feelings on his wife. Out of his childless- 
ness, children became a mystery; he stopped to look at 
them in the streets, and he was very good with his friends' 



children; but sometimes, when he thought too much about 
them, they gave him a sensation of woeful emptiness, and 
he half suspected that emptiness was present in a far more 
cutting way in Emma. 

His second meeting with Lucy Parsons came shortly 
after the first. In the early spring of that year, 1 889, he was 
asked to address the Economic Conference Forum on the 
subject of Prison Reform. That was fitting, for who was 
better informed than the author of Our Penal Machinery 
and its Victims? It was in such a mood that Altgeld came 
to the meeting, in a mood of liberal determination, his 
mind made up that he would speak forthrightly and 
plainly, saying what he thought, the newspapers be 
damned. He half expected to be the scapegoat of the affair, 
to emerge through a welter of bitter editorials the follow- 
ing day; and he had learned that such editorials on such a 
subject generally did more good than harm; but it turned 
out quite differently, and instead of being the scapegoat he 
became the hero of the next day's press. A group of labor 
people were in the audience, and when the discussion 
began, Lucy Parsons got the floor and demanded: 

"Judge Altgeld!" 


"Judge Altgeld, will you deny that your jails are rilled 
with the children of the poor, not the children of the rich? 
Will you deny that men steal because their bellies are 
empty? Will you dare to state that any of these lost sisters 
you speak of enjoy going to bed with ten and twenty mis- 
erable men in one night and having their insides burn like 
they were branded?" 

A storm of protest broke out; cries of "Disgraceful!" and 
"Disgusting!" came from all over the hall. A parson rose, 
waving his umbrella wildly and calling for the floor. 



Others hissed. But Judge Altgeld, as the papers pointed 
out the following day, acted admirably. He spread his arms 
and quelled the tumult. He demanded order and imposed 
it. He said, "A lady has the floor. Can we condemn courtesy 
by showing ourselves so discourteous?" And then, turning 
to Mrs. Parsons, he said, "Please finish your statement, 
Mrs. Parsons, and then, if you wish, I will answer you." 

So it was the notorious Lucy Parsons! The hall hushed, 
and Mrs. Parsons, who had remained on her feet, went on: 

"What is the approach of you who talk reform, preach 
reform, and make a sleigh of reform upon which you will 
ride into heaven? How do you solve things? Judge Altgeld 
advocates gray suits for the prisoners instead of striped 
suits. He advocates constructive work, good books, and 
large, clean cells. Rightly enough, he says that the hard- 
ened criminal should be kept apart from the first offender. 
Being a judge himself, I am not surprised that he talks so 
much of justice, for even if a thing is nowhere present, it is 
good that it should be discussed. No, I am not attacking 
Judge Altgeld. I am with him when he talks of the horror 
of clubbing. I know. I was clubbed, not once but many 
times. I bear the scars. But I will not rise to your reform 
bait. This is your society, Judge Altgeld; you helped to 
build and create it, and it is this society that makes the 
criminal. A woman becomes a prostitute because it's a 
little better than dying of hunger. A man becomes a thief 
because your system turns him into an outlaw. He sees 
your ethics, which are the ethics of wild beasts, and yet you 
jail him because he uses those ethics. And if the workers 
unite to fight for food, for a better way of life, you jail 
them too. And the sop to your conscience is reform, always 
reform. No, so long as you preserve this system and its 
ethics, your jails will be full of men and women who 



choose life to death, and who take life as you force them to 
take it, through crime." 

She sat down and a quiet audience waited. When Judge 
Altgeld answered, his voice was admirably controlled; he 
acted as befitted a judge of the commonwealth. "My dear 
Mrs. Parsons," he said, "arguments on a certain level de- 
mand an answer on the same level. Since you deprecate 
the decent workingman who holds down a job and brings 
home comfort and sustenance to his wife and children, I 
must rise in his defense. Hard work, industry, and thrift 
do not promote crime; quite the reverse. The honest 
workingman shuns crime, as does the honest employer; 
although I do not deny that specimens of both classes now 
walking about belong in jail. You say the system promotes 
criminals— perhaps, but I answer that it is the best system 
man has been able to devise, and it is only by sincere and 
intelligent reform that the evils within it will be lessened 
and finally done away with. I don't deny the evils; but I 
face them practically, and I recommend the same practical 
course to those Utopians who would prefer that everything 
be cast in the waste basket." 

As the papers said, a rousing chorus of applause greeted 
this, and although certain elements at the meeting con- 
tinued to heckle the Judge, they had little effect on the 
mass of the audience. 

That was the second time he saw Lucy Parsons. The 
third time, nearly a year later, he was driving with Judge 
Tree through the packing-house district and he saw her 
walking on a picket line, only a dozen yards from the road. 
Altgeld pulled in his horse and said to Tree: 

"See that woman there?" 




"The one with the dark face and the gray coat. She has a 
yellow handkerchief around her neck." 


"That's Lucy Parsons," Altgeld said. 

At that moment she looked at them, but if she recog- 
nized Altgeld she gave no sign of it. As they drove away, 
Tree remarked: 

"She's trying to clear her husband's name, isn't she?" 

"I imagine so. They seem to have been very devoted." 

Tree said, "She won't help things by being mixed up in 

Those were the three times, but they ran through a 
period of half a dozen years, and it could hardly be said 
that the Governor was troubled greatly, either by those 
meetings, or by the memory of Parsons as Schilling had 
described him. Yet now, after the scene with Darrow, his 
thoughts ranged over the many matters concerning the 
Haymarket affair, that most curious case which would not 
rest, either by virtue of a hangman's scaffold or a prison 

He smiled wryly at the thought that he, who almost 
alone of liberal Chicago citizens had held back from sign- 
ing the clemency petition, should be dogged and needled 
by this wretched case. The details of it were vague in his 
memory by now, and sometimes he wondered why it 
bulked so large with such different men as George Schil- 
ling and Clarence Darrow, why there should be in existence 
now a new petition signed by thousands of names ready to 
be presented to him. It was true that at the time, although 
he had not followed the case too closely in the newspapers, 
it had struck him as a miscarriage of justice, but in the 
essence justice was a stoutr, blind lady, and the man who 



had a dollar for each miscarriage she had suffered would be 
unnaturally wealthy, even here in Chicago. 

He was annoyed by the way the matter followed him; he 
had a large and complex job ahead of him, and didn't he 
have the right to work as other men did, with a direct re- 
lation to practical problems? Another of those damned, 
mysterious cyclic depressions had hit the state, and soon he 
would be facing a rash of strikes, lockouts, pleas from both 
labor and capital; there would be the question of the unem- 
ployed; the state institutions were in miserable condition; 
and the state schools were something to weep at. Also, with 
a certain grim satisfaction, he faced the prospect of clean- 
ing out the rest of his political enemies, as well as the op- 
ponents of his party. It was a man-sized job and more, and 
yet like a small, malignant cancer, this Haymarket affair 
kept inserting itself— as if he had been elected Governor in 
relation to that and nothing else. 

Wistfully, he recalled the first after-flush of the election 
victory. The Democrats were back in, and it was like tilt- 
ing a thousand-gallon bucket of champagne and sending it 
flowing. Black bowler hats were transformed to shining 
silk, and night after night the lights shone on a sea of 
gleaming shirtfronts. Civil War vets, Democratic stalwarts, 
beginning to age considerably, pledged toasts to the "Solid 
South," and millionaire pork and beef kings, millionaire 
lumbermen, and millionaire railroaders, toasted the peo- 
ple's party. The Judge, soon to be the Governor, loved it, 
and though night after night it was the same, fatuous 
speeches describing his town-to-town buckboard campaign, 
his astuteness, his brilliance, he did not tire. Emma tired 
first, pleading that his health would not stand it, recognizing 
the signs of those constantly recurrent malarial attacks; but 
this was a reward he would taste fully. Not even the legend 



of the Ugly Duckling did justice to this, and if he drank 
too much, ate too much, slept too little, danced too much, 
well, a man lived once and died completely. 

In that mood, recalling such recent pleasantness, he was 
found by his wife as twilight crept into his large, ma- 
hogany-fitted office. He looked up to meet her inquiring 

"Do you want the lights on?" she asked him. 

Smiling, he shook his head; he still had such pride in 
Emma, she was such a well-turned, well-dressed woman, 
whether a lawyer's wife, or a judge's, or the hostess in the 
executive mansion! Her hair, graying a little, was as it 
should be, and so was her face and her figure. If he did not 
gain from marriage what others set such store by, he did 
have certain values he appreciated completely. 

"I'll go with you, my dear," he said. "Can we have an 
early dinner?" 

"For any special reason?" 

"I'm going to Chicago tonight," the Governor said. 


The trip from Springfield to Chicago, covering that 
same unnatural separation of capital from center of com- 
merce that exists in so many states> was a long and tire- 
some one; and generally the Governor would conquer bore- 
dom through work, or sleep, or companionship— cigars, 
whisky, and a private room lightening and shortening the 
two hundred-odd miles. Not that he cared much for 
liquor, but his friends did, and he enjoyed slouching into 
one of the big leather chairs the railroad put at his dis- 
posal, and listening to the stories told and the comments 
passed. He never actually broke down his reserve, a wall of 



protection he had long ago created; and that feeling of 
apartness gave him almost a spectator's position. Thus he 
could be together and comfortable with men he despised 
as well as with men he liked, nor did the talk of the cheap 
politicians, the ward-heelers, the county men, the old party 
hacks, and the rising speculators bite deep enough to move 
him to disgust. He could watch them, listen to them, hear 
their onerously repetitious dirty stories, listen to discussion 
of extramatrimonial affairs, and yet remain aloof. And if 
he tired of the whole thing, he could pick up a book and 
read, and his friends would look at each other and then 
lower their voices, so as not to disturb the Governor. 

But, tonight, he brought no work with him and he went 
alone, without even a secretary. The porter had made up 
his bed, but though it was late, he had no great desire for 
sleep. He was on one of those journeys which are made as 
much to get away from one place as to go to another; and 
the fact that he had laid out a program for Chicago, a 
program that was in some ways a direct response to Bar- 
row's insolence, gave him no peace of mind. He recognized 
that he had to take action and put this Haymarket specter 
in its grave. He would go to his office in the Unity Block, 
and he would operate from there for a day; that would be 
soothing. He would call on his friends and demand their 
instant appearance. Joe Martin would come; so would 
Schilling and Tree and Mayor Cregier and King Mike 
McDonald, who bossed the city, and half a dozen more; 
and some would give advice, some would plead, some 
would shout at him. Yet he knew that nothing of what 
they said would matter particularly; the upshot of it was 
already decided in his own mind. He would get the 
records, review the case, stretch out the review while he 
felt the temper of the public, and then crawl through the 



only loophole. Instead of writing any decision on the fair- 
ness or unfairness of the trial, the impartiality of judge or 
jury or appeal courts, he would extend to the three men 
the mercy of the sovereign state, saying, in so many words: 
"You have been punished enough; go and sin no more." 
Thereby, he would be merciful; he would be magnani- 
mous; he would put the beast to rest, nor would he incur 
tho enmity of certain forces. It was a weasel move put into 
weasel words, but almost no one would so term it. Only he, 
John Peter Altgeld, taking that course would realize the 
full implications of it. 

He undressed and got into bed, but still he could not 
sleep, even though the jolting of a Pullman car usually 
acted like a bromide. Instead, his thoughts raced here and 
there with restless, pounding annoyance. He sought for an 
ethic, but there was no ethic; he recalled what Lucy Par- 
sons had said, and in his mind he composed arguments 
against her. In his mind, he arranged his investments; he 
totaled his wealth, recalled how he had run ten thousand 
into a hundred thousand, and a hundred thousand into a 
million. He was the millionaire governor! What was he 
fighting? Why should he nail himself onto a cross of three 
miserable labor agitators? What earthly sense did it make? 
When he could free them so easily, with the same harmless 
bit of equivocation that a hundred other governors had 
used, why should he resist that thought? Why should he 
lie awake and fight a conclusion he had already come to? 
If he took the other path, if he decided that the three 
men were innocent, had always been innocent- 
He put that thought out of his mind. "To hell with it," 
he said. "To hell and be damned! Leave it alone! Let them 
rot in jail!" Life was short. At the age of forty-five, it 
comes on a man that perhaps only fifteen years are left. He 



wanted more. He wanted to sit in the Senate, and he could. 

He remembered Phil Armour, and he remembered 
Schilling saying bitterly, in reference to a sellout on the 
part of a certain labor leader, "Some men die for freedom, 
but a German writes a book about it." 

He drove the thought from his mind. He was no more 
German than Abe Lincoln was English. He was an Ameri- 
can. What if he had, by a freak of chance, been born on 
the other side? A few months later, and he would have 
been born here. He was an American; didn't his friends 
say that he was more American than any native son they 

He sought for an ethic, and there was no ethic to be 
found. Not even the ethic of power, for as a businessman 
he was nothing alongside Field or McCormick or Armour 
or Pullman, and he knew, if no one else did, precisely how 
a man came to be Governor of Illinois. 

In his office in the great Unity Building, which was his, 
which he had built and created, he felt much better. Day- 
light eases a problem, and by now he had become so thor- 
oughly a part of Chicago that the city was, in a sense, an 
answer to problems. For wasn't Chicago like him, more 
American than any city on the continent, yet with a larger 
proportion of foreign-born than any city on the continent; 
ugly in its youth, but becoming less so, crude and vigorous 
and violent? In the downtown section, massive skyscrapers 
were rising, buildings unlike any other in the land, huge, 
blocked-out, frightening, giving a feeling of being flung 
and landing here and there or anywhere, like the toys of a 
capricious giant. Also, after the great inter-city labor wars 



of the late seventies and eighties, the wealthy citizens of 
the town led a movement against narrow streets. Narrow 
streets, turning and twisting, could be too easily barri- 
caded and held. In narrow streets a few rifles were as good 
as artillery, and from the upper floors a handful might 
defend such streets against a thousand. So the city-planners 
laid out the new avenues broad and wide, with streets in- 
tersecting them at exact right angles; thereby, a Gatling 
gun could sweep unobstructed for a thousand yards, a 
howitzer could be precisely trained, and a field piece could 
drive point-blank for a mile or more. Cavalry could charge 
on an avenue as well as across an open field, and troops 
could advance ten abreast. 

And while sober, thoughtful citizens, such as Altgeld, 
considered that there was something disgraceful as well as 
hysterical in this sort of thing, they admitted that the city 
benefited; from the pork- and beef-butchery beginnings, 
they could make a dream of a continental metropolis, 
noble and beautiful, central to half the world, and giving 
wheat and beef and abundance to many millions. 

His Unity Block was part of this dream. A long time 
ago— how long ago, he hardly knew, but perhaps back in 
those half -forgotten days when he ran like a small wild 
beast through the virgin forest of the middle border— he 
had conceived the dream of rearing towers. Since then it 
had changed; the fancies of a child became the sketches of 
a lonely man. When Emma discovered him at his desk, 
shading in rectangular blocks, he would be half apologetic, 
half ashamed; and then she would explain to someone else 
that Pete wanted to build the biggest house in the world. 
But that was hardly the truth; he wanted to build towers; 
when he sought for verity in his world, the world charging 
out of the middle west like a steam locomotive, he found 


it only in material things. Other men died and they left a 
child, a family, a commercial empire; if he died, for a few 
weeks his friends would talk about Pete Altgeld, and then 
it would be done. In the dark hours of the night, when the 
fear of death was strongest, he understood full well why 
the ancient Egyptian kings reared such mighty piles of 

Partly out of that, he built the Unity Block; partly be- 
cause he despised his own trade of politics. He wrote 
books; he built houses; he sought to imprint himself on 
life. Each time it was a larger piece of property, a taller 
building. It did not occur to him to ask why, with so much 
space available, Americans should frenetically urge their 
buildings toward the sky. If he translated it to himself at 
all, it was in terms of a monument rearing out of the soot 
and dirt of this wild and windy town, so that people could 
point and say, "Altgeld built that." He put four hundred 
thousand dollars of his money into the Unity Building, 
and he borrowed as much more, and then from day to day, 
he could not wait to see it in completion, planning in 
sleepless nights how he could hurry the construction. 
When the steel framework reared up, the building's naked- 
ness became his own until he could cover it over with 
bricks. He made mistakes; stone caught between his frame- 
work and the McCormick building, which it hugged, threw 
the skeleton out of line, and it was not the hundred-thou- 
sand-dollar repair bill that made him sick, desperate, ter- 
ror-stricken, but rather the thought that his building, his 
baby and darling might be lost forever. He saw it through 
the repair as a mother might see a child through sickness; 
and of nights, stealthily, he would slip out of his house, go 
and stand in the darkness across the street from the giant 
he was nursing, stand for hours on end staring up at the 



monstrous bulk, darker against the dark Chicago sky. And 
when the masonry enfolded the frame, finally, he felt like 
weeping with gratitude; and out of this came certain 
childish things, like what he said to Pastor Schloss of the 
Lutheran Church he now and then gave money to: 

"You see, pastor, this is the kind of immortality that 
counts. It will stand forever." 

To which the pastor answered, quite obviously, "Noth- 
ing stands forever." 

This was the place to which he went now, home in 
Chicago, and sitting in his office there, he felt comforted, 
rested and assured, so much so that Joe Martin, coming in, 
smiled with surprise and said: 

"Pete, you look good." 

"I feel good." 

"Well, I heard you were sick. But you don't look sick. 
You look like old times. But maybe I go too much by old 
times. I should call you Governor now." 

"All right— if you want to." 

"What can I do for the Governor?" Martin asked. There 
was a half-hostile note in his voice, mixed with the real 
pleasure he felt at seeing Altgeld. 

"Send Emma some flowers, for one thing. You did that 
in Chicago. It wouldn't cost a hell of a lot more now." 

"How is Emma?" 

"Worried about me. Otherwise, fine." 

"Has she something to worry about?" 

"Only that I'm wearing out, running down. I say I've 
got twenty good years left, maybe thirty. But the smart 
boys don't count on me to live out my term. What do you 

"I don't play long shots." 

"Why don't you ask me what I really want?" 



"Why should I? You're the Governor. You call and I 
come. You call and big Mike comes too. I'm just a two-bit 

"All right/' Altgeld said. "Get it out of your system." 

'Where did you want me to count you in? Superinten- 
dent of Hospitals, Secretary of State, Factory Inspector—?" 

"Maybe it's your kind of honesty I don't figure," Joe 
Martin said. "I cion't claim to be an honest man, but I 
never welshed on a bet; I never ratted on a friend. I 
bought votes and sold them, because that's my business, 
the same as running a roulette wheel." 

"And you think I'm pulling reform on my friends?" 

"I don't know what to think. A man becomes gover- 

"And what?" 

"He plays both ends against the middle. I guess the next 
step is the White House." 

"I wasn't born in this country," Altgeld reminded him. 

"Jesus God, and the way you figure, that's the only thing 
that stands in your way." 

"Maybe. Why don't you stop tearing at me, Joe? Maybe 
I don't know what to do. I'm sick of politics." 

"You're not sick of it, Governor. You love it." 

"And I hate it. Suppose I busted loose?" 


"Not something that concerned the party directly. Would 
the party stick by me?" 

"Ask the party, Governor." 

"I'm asking you." 

"All right. I don't know; you're for labor, you're against 
it. You're against big business, but you're big business 



yourself. You hate Big Mike and you hate Phil Armour 

too. Where do you stand?" 

Quietly, honestly, Altgeld answered, "I don't know." 
"When ycu know where you stand, then go to the party." 


Schilling, however, knew precisely why he had been 
summoned, and after an exchange of greetings, he sat wait- 
ing for Altgeld to break the ice; but Altgeld, watching the 
former carpenter, the friend of Parsons, considered how 
almost every man has his price, has an end to his ideal, a 
time when he tires. Schilling had served him well in the 
gubernatorial race; under the Judge's guidance, he had 
formed the Altgeld Labor Legion, and the Democratic 
Party had come forth as the party of the workingman, Jef- 
ferson's party. One hundred thousand dollars of Altgeld's 
own money had furnished the backing for this movement, 
and the workingman was told that here was Pete Altgeld, 
a worker himself, who would fight for him right down the 
line. He spoke in union halls; he paraded his recollections 
of railroad construction; he wrapped the denims tight 
around him. When he spoke to workers and said, "Old 
Abe Lincoln would be the first one to take up the banner 
of new democracy, the banner of the working class," they 
roared with satisfaction, the deep- toned roar which came 
from this kind of an audience. And when he spoke to a 
group of German workers, telling them, "Ich arbeite mit 
meinen Handen! Und du arbeitest mit deinen Handen, 
und wo gibt es H'dnde, stark genug, um uns zu nehmen, 
was wir erarbeitet haben?" the same, deep-toned roar 
greeted him. 
Afterwards, the reward for Schilling was the post of sec- 



retary in the State Board of Labor Statistics, so that he no 
longer had to go hungry most of the time, as he did when 
he was business manager for the socialist paper in Chicago; 
and therefore it was hard for Schilling to demand from the 
Governor. His old comrades knew the tune he had played 
in the election, and now, looking at him, Altgeld won- 
dered just how thin and rotten and incredible the whole 
political fabric of the great republic was, how much more 
it could be stretched, and whether it was not essentially the 
same all the way through, top to bottom, House, Senate, 
and White House, only the price changing, only the 
method of corruption becoming a great deal larger and 
more complex. 

Yet he liked Schilling, liked him tremendously; at the 
bottom, Schilling was his own kind; he was declassed 
wholly, Schilling was not. Emma could make a great thing 
of both the stone house on Frederick Street and the State 
Mansion, but there was a point beyond which he couldn't 
travel. Those he could live with were not the masters, but 
the political servants, wisecracking, loud-mouthed, foul of 
speech, corrupt, graft-ridden, but still with a memory that 
they lived in the gold palaces only by sufferance; and a 
million-dollar tag didn't change it any. 

So when he spoke, the Governor asked Schilling, straight- 
forwardly, "Do they all expect me to pardon the anarch- 


"Not all. You know what I mean." 

"Sometimes, my friend," Schilling said, "I think that 
you don't understand your own game. Whatever you 
think, the people elected you. More of them voted for you 
than for your opponent. There must have been a reason." 

i 3 6 


"I never put in a platform that I would pardon the 

"No, of course not. A thousand vote for this reason, a 
thousand for that. But there are many, many thousands 
who hope you will pardon Fielden and Schwab and Neebe 
—no, they believe you will. Pete, what I have heard! They 
look at you and their hearts go out, so they trust you." 

"And they're fools." 

"No," Schilling said tiredly. "They are not entirely 

"If I pardon them, then I'm through." 

"Unless you believe in the people." 

"What could the people do for me? What could I do for 

"I think that if you were born in this country, they 
could make you president. And this way, they would fol- 
low you to hell." 

Altgeld shook his head. 

"And the pardon?" 

With a sudden rush of irritation, Altgeld snapped, "If 
they're guilty, they can rot there! If they're innocent, 
they'll get out! God damn it, talk about something else! 
And if you want to talk about the anarchists, bring me 
facts, not tears, not this stupid talk about the people!" 


But Judge Lambert Tree said, pointing to methodology, 
pure and simple, "There are two ways to go about this. If 
you extend mercy to these men, no one will dare to pro- 
test. Haymarket was a witchburning, a bloodfest, and the 
heat has passed. Do you think that at this point Marshall 



Field or Cyrus McCormick give two damns as to whether 
those three men rot inside a jail or outside one?" 

"I've thought of that," Altgeld agreed. 

"On the other hand, if you imply that Parsons and Spies 
were innocent, as you must if you are to pardon Fielden 
on legalistic grounds, or even if you imply that the original 
trial was unfair, then I, personally, would not give twenty 
cents for your political future." 

"I see." 

"So the three courses are open. Ignore the whole thing— 
and you'll never get the labor vote again in this state. Ex- 
tend mercy, and both labor and business will stand behind 
you— I would say, if you want another term as Governor, 
yes, and the Senate too. But if you take the third course—" 

"I'm through?" 

"I think so." 

"You would not take the third course?" 

"I don't think any man in his right mind would, Peter." 

"Do you think that if I had sat on that bench instead of 
Gary and tried the case, the result would have been dif- 

"I don't know what you would have done. I don't even 
know what I would have done. But I think there is a limit 
to what any one man can do." 

"And where is the limit?" Altgeld asked. 

"The point where he destroys himself." 

"Then you would have to consider that Parsons de- 
stroyed himself," Altgeld murmured. 


When Altgeld came back to Springfield, he called in 
young Brand Whitlock, who was in charge of the archives, 

i 3 8 


the chaotic piles of musty documents which had accumu- 
lated in cellars and vaults ever since Illinois became a 
state. Whitlock had been a reporter, and meeting him dur- 
ing the campaign, Altgeld became fascinated by the believ- 
ing directness of the boy; there was something clean and 
winning about him, and Altgeld had wanted him for a 
secretary. But when Whitlock dogmatically refused to be 
secretary to anyone, the Governor persuaded him to take a 
job with the Secretary of State. That he worshiped the 
ground Altgeld walked on was obvious, and talking to 
him, trying to get at the reason for this without embar- 
rassing the young man, trying to get some of the so neces- 
sary food for his own ego without tearing down any of the 
belief, Altgeld drew out of him a curious concept. 

For Whitlock, America was young, and whereas the 
heroes of other lands were long-dead ancients, the heroes 
of this land were only of yesterday. His own grandfather 
was one such, and out of his childhood, curtained with the 
lovely translucence of childhood, came others, tall Abe 
Lincoln and Douglass and old Fremont of the middle bor- 
der and John Brown, some of whom he had known and 
some whom he remembered from tales told, and many, 
many more, and as he said to Altgeld: 

"They did what I would want to do, and you're doing it, 
too, sir." 

"And what am I doing?" Altgeld asked. 

"Well, if I'm out on a story and I talk to a plain man, 
and we talk about how rotten things are, everywhere, he 
will usually say, If only there were a few more like Pete 

"What does that add up to?" 

And somewhat ashamed of his own words, Whitlock 
said, in his almost formal manner of speech, "I think 



you're trying to serve the people, sir, because you're one 
of us." 

And now Brand Whitlock stood in front of the Gover- 
nor, eager and waiting, and Altgeld asked him: 

"Do you know where everything is on the Haymarket 


"I mean everything there is to be had. The verbatim 
testimony, accounts read into the trial, briefs filed with the 
Supreme Court, newspaper files compiled by the state— in 
other words, everything." 

"There's a mountain of it," Whitlock said. "I know 
where it is, but my God, sir, it would fill your office." 

"Then fill my office with it," Altgeld told him. "Do it 
today." And then, seeing that the boy hesitated, "Well?" 

"Are you going to pardon them, sir?" 

"What would you do, if you were in my place?" 

The boy said, "I think I would pardon them, sir, the 
whole world be damned." 


At a dinner which Emma Altgeld gave a few days later- 
such dinners as she was expected to give now, being the 
mistress of the executive mansion, there was a banker, a 
Methodist bishop from downstate, Professor Haley of the 
university, who was an economist and hoped for a place in 
the administration, and Joe Martin, who was only a tin- 
horn gambler, even now, but a friend of the Governor's. 
The banker's wife, a thin, frightened woman, fluttered 
about Emma pleadingly, but the wife of the Methodist 
bishop was large and handsome; and the party was rounded 



off by another man and woman. The woman was Lizbeth 
Cordwood, the sociologist, and the man was Samuel 
Gompers, the trade-union leader, who was making a tour, 
and who had been invited to meet the new Governor and 
dine with him. All in all, it was a varied and interesting 
gathering, and in the reception room Emma was pleased to 
note how well Gompers wore his evening clothes— not like 
Schilling, who was a shabby man and would always be one 
—and how nicely he chatted with the banker and the 
bishop's wife. 

At the dinner, for the most part, things went nicely too. 
Being Governor had not changed Altgeld's regard for sub- 
stantial food, the kind that sticks to a man's ribs and re- 
calls to him the good memory of having eaten, and that 
and the wine mellowed conversation. Lizbeth Cordwood 
found common ground with the professor, who was a 
bachelor, and Gompers, with Mrs. Altgeld on one side of 
him and the wife of the bishop on the other, appeared to 
be enjoying himself enormously well— although whenever 
he spoke to the Governor, his voice changed just a little, 
assuming a note of deference and compliance that annoyed 
Altgeld considerably more than it humored him. 

The conversation was not brilliant, but at least it had 
none of those ominous gaps which can be so embarrassing 
to a hostess, a fact Emma was grateful for, since the Gov- 
ernor was tired and hardly said more than a word or two. 
The talk ranged from economics, the depression in par- 
ticular, to religion and the current squabble between the 
lay and clerical authorities in regard to schooling, with 
half a dozen other subjects in between. It was after the 
last course, while waiting for the dessert, that Emma, see- 
ing her husband rub his eyes for at least the sixth time, 
explained, "You must forgive the Governor, he's been 



deep in the Hayrnarket thing," ignoring his angry look; 
but then it was done, and the banker said: 

"If we hanged some of the agitators who are stirring this 
thing up, we might all have a little peace." 

"That's not a very charitable way to look at it," Miss 
Cordwood said. 

"I leave charity to those who are expert at it. They are 
expert enough to claim more money than my stock- 

There was general laughter at this sally, even Mr. 
Gompers smiling, and Professor Haley said to the Banker, 
"Apparently, sir, you have little sympathy for the anarch- 

"None at all, none at all, with apologies to the Gover- 

"Why— with apologies to me?" Altgeld asked. 

"Common knowledge you intend to pardon the 

"Is it?" Emma knew the danger signs, but it was too late. 

"Political, sir, so don't misunderstand me. A move 
which will placate labor, and that has a place. Four were 
hanged and they were shown what's what. So if three go 
free— well, politics." 

"And what do you think, Mr. Gompers?" Altgeld asked. 

"The labor movement," Gompers said, "has no sym- 
pathy for either socialism or murder." 

"And you approve of linking the two?" 

The banker laughed heartily. "Score for you, Governor. 
They have not accused you of murder yet." 

"Not yet." And turning to Gompers, "If the labor move- 
ment has no sympathy, Mr. Gompers, how do you account 
for Chicago labor, as well as labor groups all over the coun- 
try, badgering me for these men's release?" 



"We have all sorts of elements— " Gompers began, search- 
ing Altgeld's face for some clue as to where his sympathies 

"But you are very quick to say murder." 

"It was the decision of the court," the bishop said. 
"Surely, the individual citizen can do no better than to 
rely on the time-tested justice of the republic—" 

"Is it very warm downstate?" Emma asked the bishop's 
wife, desperately trying to turn the conversation, and hear- 
ing her highpitched request, the Governor glanced at her 
and smiled a little, as if to say, it will be all right, my dear. 
But Joe Martin said, bluntly, "Wouldn't mercy be down 
your line, bishop?" 

"Mercy? Mercy is a large word. Should there be mercy 
for those who would destroy the works of God?" 

"Yet Christ forgave—" the banker's wife began, speaking 
for the first time that evening, and then, under her hus- 
band's glance, allowing the rest of her phrase to trail away. 

"We temper a parable with our experience," the bishop 
said. "There are those whom even Christ would not for- 

"Mr. Gompers," the Governor said, his voice more 
amiable than before, "perhaps you could clarify me on one 
matter. These men who were hanged— well, Parsons, for 
example— they were labor leaders after a fashion, or were 
they not? In every action they took, they fought for labor, 
or so it seems to me. In fact, one of the counts used against 
them was that they wished labor to take over this country. 
To me, naturally, they are enemies of a sort; I don't wish 
labor to take over this country. I employ labor, and I don't 
look at myself as a devil. But you, on the other hand, are a 
labor leader. Are the interests of these men so different 
from yours?" 



"Very different. They use labor for their own ends, as 
every socialist and communist does, for their own selfish 
advancement. To put themselves into power, they would 
nail labor onto a cross!" 

"And yet they died like heroes." 

"As has many an evil man," the bishop said. 

"I suppose so," the Governor agreed. "You have no 
sympathy for the anarchists, Mr. Gompers?" 

"Personally, I have very little. However, there are 
unions in the American Federation of Labor which have 
cast doubt on the complete impartiality of judge and 
jurors in the case, and I would not place myself as stand- 
ing in the way of a pardon." 

"You would not," the Governor smiled, and then shifted 
the conversation abruptly, turning to the bishop's wife 
and asking, more pointedly than his wife, just how the 
weather was downstate. 

Later, when all of the guests except Joe Martin had 
gone, and the Governor was sitting with him and his wife 
in the library, Emma begged his forgiveness. "It's all 
right," the Governor said. "I suppose I have what I de- 
serve, Emma. I go to church now. The bishop was im- 
pressed with that." 

"You ought to v go away, like Emma's been telling you 
to," Martin said. "You ought to go to Europe." 

"I've been reading the Haymarket briefs. It's an ex- 
perience, Joe." 

"I keep begging him to go away for a while." 

"I like living," Altgeld said. "I even like having fools 
to dinner." 

"What are you going to do about this?" 

"When I do it, you'll see." 




There were so many things to be done as Governor, so 
many routine things that often it was late at night before 
he found time for a few hours with the books, the records, 
the finely written transcripts of the Haymarket affair. By 
now he no longer attempted to deny, even to himself, that 
this strange business of the explosion of a mysterious bomb 
on a Chicago street had become one of the central and im- 
portant factors in his life. Bit by bit, it had moved in upon 
him, until now he was living with those eight incredible 
men whom he had never even known— Albert Parsons, 
August Spies, Louis Lingg, Samuel Fielden, George Engel, 
Adolph Fischer, Oscar Neebe, and Michael Schwab. He 
studied their faces and features in the drawings of them by 
the newspaper artists, particularly the sketches Art Young 
of the Daily News had done two days before the execution. 
He read their statements to the court before they were 

spies: ". . . Before this court, and before the public, 
which is supposed to be the State, I charge the State's At- 
torney and Bonfield [Chicago police captain] with the 
heinous conspiracy to commit murder. . . ." 

parsons: "... I have violated no law of this country. 
Neither I nor my colleagues have violated any legal right 
of American citizens. We stand upon the right of free 
speech, of free press, of public assembly, unmolested, and 
undisturbed. We stand upon the Constitutional right of 
self-defense, and we defy the prosecution to rob the people 
of America of these dearly bought rights. But the prosecu- 
tion imagines that they have triumphed because they pro- 
pose to put to death seven men. . . ." 



schwab: "... I know that our ideal will not be accom- 
plished this or next year, but I know that it will be accom- 
plished as near as possible, some day in the future. ..." 

fischer: "... I protest against my being sentenced to 
death, because I have committed no crime. However, if I 
am to die on account of being an Anarchist, I will not 

lingg: "... I despise you! I despise your order, your 
laws, your force-propped authority! Hang me for it!" 

fielden: "... There is a part of me you cannot kill. . . ." 

engel: "... Can anyone feel respect for a government that 
accords rights only to the privileged classes and none to the 
workers? For such a government, I can feel no respect. . . ." 

But it was the statement of Oscar Neebe that had the 
deepest effect on Altgeld. He alone was not sentenced to 
death, but only to fifteen years in jail; but he had been 
selected by the police at random, simply because he was a 
militant worker, and never was any pretense made that he 
had any connection with what happened at Haymarket. 
When it came time for him to speak, he rose and said: 

"Well, these are the crimes I have committed. They 
found a revolver in my house and a red flag there. I 
organized trade unions. I was for reduction of the hours of 
labor, and the education of the laboring man, and the re- 
establishment of the workingman's newspaper. There is no 
evidence to show that I was connected with the bomb- 
throwing, or that I was near it, or anything of that kind. 
So I am only sorry, your honor— that is, if you can stop it 
or help it— I will ask you to do it— that is, to hang me, too; 
for I think it is more honorable to die suddenly than to 
be killed by inches. I have a family and children; and if 
they know their father is dead, they will bury him. They 
can go to the grave and kneel down by the side of it; but 



they can't go to the penitentiary and see their father, who 
was convicted of a crime that he hasn't anything to do 
with. That is all I have got to say. Your honor, I am sorry I 
am not to be hung with the rest of the men." 

There were times when, reading something like this, in 
the early hours of the morning, Altgeld would simply stop, 
cease to act and react, and find himself and his thoughts 
suspended in a limbo— out of which he would painfully 
crawl— tired, beaten. Sometimes, Emma would come in and 
find him that way, and say to him, "Come to bed, Pete, it's 
so late." "This business, my God, Emma, Schilling came 
and pleaded with me, and I didn't listen." "But now you'll 
make it right, Pete," thinking, anything, so the dead would 
lie dead. "I can't bring them back," he would say. "I can't 
make Parsons alive." "You didn't hang Parsons." "I hanged 
him. We all did." "Well, that's because you're tired. 
You're talking that way because you're tired." "Emma, 
I'm going to fight them, I'm going to fight them to hell 
and be damned." "Don't swear, please, Pete— come to bed." 
"But it was rotten, from top to bottom, right from the be- 
ginning when that son of a bitch, Melville Stone, the 
stinking editor of a lousy daily wrote the verdict of the 
coronor's jury and boasted then, before the trial ever 
began, that it was fixed and they would die. And then a 
dirty little bailiff, Ryce, you remember him, he took bets 
they would die because he had instructions and money to 
fix the jury—" "Stop talking that way, Pete." "But I've 
seen dirty things— it's not Sunday School, being a politician 
—but I've never seen anything like this." "You'll make 
yourself sick over it." "I am. Emma, this is going to break 
like a bat out of hell." "What are you afraid of?" "You're 
not afraid?" She said, "What have I been afraid of, with 
you in it? I don't understand these things, but I haven't 


tried to stop you. You do what's right, that's all." "How do 
I know what's right?" "You know." "Well, they want me 
to pardon these men because they're afraid, all of them, 
Stone is afraid, and Ryce and Gary, because they're none 
of them sure their religion is a lie and there isn't a hell for 
them to roast in, but just to pardon these poor bastards 
and say that they're guilty and write a clean slate for the 
men who murdered Parsons and Spies, by God, I, won't do 
that. I won't do it. I swear to God I'll do what I please!" 
"You will, Pete." "I'm all right, don't look at me like that, 
only I'm mad." 

His anger became meticulous. He read every word, 
every line. He saw that the jury was framed, but he had to 
prove it for himself, and he itemized the proof. He made 
for himself a brief that would stand up in a court of the 
gods. He came to the conclusion that Judge Gary, who had 
tried the case, was the most deliberate judicial murderer 
in all civilized history, but that too he had to prove, and 
he worked down to the essence of fact, so far as it was given 
to any man to know the facts. That, in relation to all this, 
a qualitative change was occurring within him, he knew, 
nor did he resist any longer that change taking place. Here 
were the facts and here was the case, and now he was 
sitting as judge, by the sovereign right and decision of the 
people of Illinois. The forged testimony, the perjury, the 
inventions of a hundred hired spies, the statements of 
thugs and degenerates, the confused blubberings of the 
human wrecks who came out of the police torture cells— all 
of this happening in his own beloved city, in his own Chi- 
cago, and he hadn't known. 

Now he knew. He told himself, if this was his last case, 
he would judge it as a judge should. And then he wouldn't 
take what came quietly—he'd fight. There were long hours 



when he thought of democracy, what it meant, what it 
might be. There was a theory that no one had ever tried, 
except perhaps Tom Jefferson, long, long ago, and some- 
times it seemed to him that another could try it, take 
democracy and make a fight of it- 
He sometimes thought that if he could come out of this 
with his head on his shoulders, he could make a fight of it. 


It can't be said entirely how a man changes, why he 
changes, what ferments in him, what juices run together 
and come to a slow boil; for there are a hundred thousand 
factors unaccountable, not to be listed in any set of books. 
The child is the father of the man, and the child has his 
father too, and even the beating rain and the shining sun 
go to temper a man; sometimes change ferments slowly, 
sometimes quickly; sometimes change boils in rage; and 
sometimes there is an iron rod in a man that resists change, 
or a soggy clay core that soaks it up and never shows a 

The change in Altgeld, seeping through him now, inside 
and outside, doing quiet things inside, etching lines on his 
face outside— this change was not a thing entirely, not al- 
together, not accountable and not to be graphed. He was 
sailing, suddenly, a sea he had never really charted; nor 
was he too familiar with the charts of others. He was look- 
ing at persons newly and freshly; for example, his wife, the 
wonderful, calm Emma, had become a rock, closer to him 
than ever before, but, on the other hand, Schilling was 
understandable and pitiful; Whitlock was a boy such as he 
might have had, yet the emptiness of his childlessness was 
not the way it had been. A processional was filing in, and 



out of his memory form took shape, the wanderers on the 
many roads of the land, the men who had swung pick and 
shovel, the hard-handed, brown-faced farmers of Kansas, 
Nebraska, Iowa, Ohio, Missouri, scraping at the soil in 
epic hopelessness, for they had had nothing commensurate 
with their labors, nor would they, the evil-faced criminals 
who had stood before his bench, whipped and broken and 
turned into devils, the thousands of stolid workers, so bit- 
terly silent, walking behind the coffins of Spies and Par- 
sons and the others, the bereaved and the tear-stained, the 
homeless and hopeless and cold and hungry, and the shadow 
upon them of the towers that were reared over the land, 
such towers as his own great Unity Building— they filed in, 
processional-like, and they filled a space. 

Yet the change was slow, stumbling, uncertain; where he 
sought for markers on the many roads, there were none, 
and those whom he tried to remember for sustenance, the 
Lincolns, the Jacksons, the Jeffersons and Paines— they had 
no certainty of direction to give him. He put out his hands 
and he felt his way, and most of the time his hands met so 
little that his reaction was more of fear than of hope. 


When he did a thing, he simply felt that he must do it, 
Downstate, at Decatur, a black man was dragged from a 
jail and lynched. A year ago, two years ago, three years ago 
this would have been a natural and accepted part of the 
landscape. In this landscape you built your house and 
earned your bread, a million dollars of it. If men hungered, 
starved, sinned, or were lynched, the world was so, and you 
accepted it. Now he accepted nothing. Burning with rage, 
he talked to newspapermen. 



"This," he said, "is not civilization, not decency, but 
barbarism. You and I were down there participating in 
that lynching— so was every good citizen of this state. Don't 
think any different. And the shame is ours." 

Still he was not satisfied. He sat down and wrote a 
proclamation to the people of Illinois: 

"Being authoritatively advised that at two o'clock this 
morning a mob broke down the doors of the jail at De- 
catur, overpowered the officers of the law, took from his 
cell a Negro confined there, dragged him out and killed 
him by hanging him to a post nearby, I hereby denounce 
this cowardly and diabolical act as not only murder under 
our laws, but as a disgrace to our civilization and a blot 
upon the fair name of our State. . . ." 

It set him to thinking of civilization, of all that the very 
word implied. Joe Martin had a code of ethics based on 
gambling, on graft and the buying and selling of votes, yet 
it was civilized compared to the code of Phil Armour or 
Cyrus McCormick; yet what was Altgeld's own code in this 
state where a man was dragged from a jail and murdered 
by a mob? 

He was emerging from the nightmare word-welter of 
Haymarket. The dead would sleep in peace, even if there 
was no peace for him. He said to Emma: 

"My darling, we're going to see something no one in 
America ever saw before." 


A week after the lynching, he sat down to write. He 
began late one evening, a pile of white paper clean and 
virgin on his desk, a single sheet upon which he had writ- 



"Reasons for Pardoning Fielden, Neebe and Schwab, by 
John P. Altgeld-" 

He wrote without much hesitation. He knew what he 
wanted to say, and the words flowed from his pen: 

"On the night of May 4, 1886, a public meeting was held 
on Haymarket Square in Chicago; there were from 800 to 
1000 people present, nearly all being laboring men. There 
had been trouble, growing out of the effort to introduce 
the eight-hour day, resulting in some collisions with the 
police, in one of which several laboring people were killed, 
and this meeting was called as a protest against alleged 
police brutality. 

"The meeting was orderly and was attended by the 
mayor, who remained until the crowd began to disperse 
and then went away. As soon as Capt. John Bonfield, of the 
police department, learned that the mayor had gone, he 
took a detachment of police and hurried to the meeting for 
the purpose of dispersing the few who remained, and as 
the police approached the place of meeting a bomb was 
thrown by some unknown person, which exploded and 
wounded many and killed several policemen, among the 
latter being one Mathias Degan. A number of people were 
arrested and after a time August Spies, Albert R. Parsons, 
Louis Lingg, Michael Schwab, Samuel Fielden, George 
Engel, Adolph Fischer and Oscar Neebe were indicted for 
the murder of Mathias Degan. The prosecution could not 
discover who had thrown the bomb and could not bring 
the really guilty men to justice, and, as some of the men 
indicted were not at the Haymarket meeting and had 
nothing to do with it, the prosecution was forced to pro- 
ceed on the theory that the men indicted were guilty of 
murder because it was claimed they had at various times in 
the past uttered and printed incendiary and seditious lan- 



guage, practically advising the killing of policemen, of 
Pinkerton men and others acting in that capacity, and that 
they were therefore responsible for the murder of Mathias 
Began. The public was greatly excited and after a pro- 
longed trial all of the defendants were found guilty; Oscar 
Neebe was sentenced to fifteen years' imprisonment and all 
of the other defendants were sentenced to be hanged. The 
case was carried to the supreme court and was there af- 
firmed in the fall of 1887. Soon thereafter Lingg com- 
mitted suicide. The sentence of Fielden and Schwab was 
commuted to imprisonment for life, and Parsons, Fischer, 
Engel and Spies were hanged, and the petitioners now ask 
to have Neebe, Fielden and Schwab set at liberty. 

"The several thousand merchants, bankers, judges, law- 
yers and other prominent citizens of Chicago who have by 
petition, by letter and in other ways urged executive 
clemency, mostly base their appeal on the ground that, as- 
suming the prisoners to be guilty, they have been punished 
enough, but a number of them who have examined the 
case more carefully, and are more familiar with the record 
and with the facts disclosed by the papers on file, base their 
appeal on entirely different grounds. They assert: 

"First— That the jury which tried the case was a packed 
jury selected to convict. 

"Second— That according to the law as laid down by the 
supreme court, both prior to and again since the trial of 
this case, the jurors, according to their own answers, were 
not competent jurors and the trial was therefore not a 
legal trial. 

"Third— That the defendants were not proven to be 
guilty of the crime charged in the indictment. 

"Fourth— That as to the defendant Neebe, the state's at- 
torney had declared at the close of the evidence that there 



was no case against him, and yet he has been kept in prison 
all these years. 

* 'Fifth— That the trial judge was either so prejudiced 
against the defendants, or else so determined to win the 
applause of a certain class in the community that he could 
not and did not grant a fair trial. 

"Upon the question of having been punished enough I 
will simply say that if the defendants had a fair trial, and 
nothing has developed since to show that they are not 
guilty of the crime charged in the indictment, then there 
ought to be no executive interference, for no punishment 
under our laws could then have been too severe. Govern- 
ment must defend itself; life and property must be pro- 
tected and law and order must be maintained; murder 
must be punished, and if the defendants are guilty of mur- 
der, either committed with their own hands or by someone 
else acting on their advice, then, if they have had a fair 
trial, there should be in this case no executive interfence. 
The soil of America is not adopted for the growth of 
anarchy. While our institutions are not free from injustice, 
they are still the best that have yet been devised, and there- 
fore must be maintained." 

So he began this paper, feeling not too different from a 
man who writes his own death warrant, yet feeling also an 
excitement and wonder at his own actions; for, as his friend 
Judge Tree pointed out, he was taking a course not too 
different from Parsons', a course which almost all men 
avoid because inherent in it are seeds of destruction. But 
with the course laid down, for all that it was poorly 
charted, he could not turn aside; excitement won out over 
fear; and for the first time in all his life he felt some of 
that curious peace which can only come from a solution, 
partial or otherwise, of the terrible contradictions which 



begin to destroy a thoughtful man, almost from the mo- 
ment he applies his thoughts to justice or injustice. 

Emma saw it; he was more gentle with her; things so 
small as passing a dish at dinner became an extension of 
what went on within him. If they had not started with 
love, she had no doubts as to what she felt for him now. 
She went away from his room one evening choked up with 
emotion, her eyes wet, yet at the same time with a buoy- 
ancy she had never known before. She didn't try to under- 
stand his actions; he was doing a brave thing, and though 
her own reaction surprised her, she was somehow not sad 
that things would not ever be the way they were. She had 
hitched her star to something when she married the awk- 
ward bumpkin of a country schoolteacher, but what was 
impossible to him when here he was, Governor of the state, 
and doing something which every sober friend of hers had 
assured her would ruin him? But she had stopped listening 
to her sober friends, and when coming from his room, she 
met the Governor's secretary and was asked, "Is he work- 
ing on the pardon now, Mrs. Altgeld?" she said, "Yes." "It 
will be a blow, I'm afraid." "It will be all right," she said. 

After a time, Pete Altgeld felt it would be all right too. 
There was enough potency in the cold facts he put down 
on paper. He proved that the jury was fixed. Piling up 
thousands of words of sworn evidence, he summarized it 
thus in his pardon message: 

"It is shown that he [Ryce, the special bailiff] boasted 
while selecting jurors that he was managing this case; that 
these fellows would hang certain as death; that he was call- 
ing such men as the defendants would have to challenge 
peremptorily and waste their challenges on, and that when 
their challenges were exhausted they would have to take 
such men as the prosecution wanted" 



He inserted affidavits; he reproduced verbatim testi- 
mony of examination of the jurors who finally sat on the 
case, as for example that of H. T. Sanford: 

"Q. Have you an opinion as to the guilt or innocence of 
the defendants of the murder of Mathias J. Began? 

"A. I have. 

"Q. From all that you have heard and that you have 
read, have you an opinion as to the guilt or innocence of 
the defendants of throwing the bomb? 

"A. Yes, sir; I have. 

"Q. Have you a prejudice against socialists and com- 
munists? * 

"A. Yes, sir; a decided prejudice. 

"Q. Do you believe that prejudice would influence your 
verdict in this case? 

"A. Well, as I know so little about it, it is a pretty hard 
question to answer. J have an opinion in my own mind 
that the defendants encouraged the throwing of that bomb." 

Case after case of this sort, Altgeld quoted, concluding 

"No matter what the defendants were charged with, they 
were entitled to a fair trial, and no greater danger could 
possibly threaten our institutions than to have the courts 
of justice run wild or give way to popular clamor, and 
when the trial judge in this case ruled that a relative of 
one of the men who was killed was a competent juror, and 
this after the man had candidly stated that he was deeply 
prejudiced and that his relationship caused him to feel 
more strongly than he otherwise might, and when in scores 
of instances he ruled that men who candidly declared that 
they believed the defendants to be guilty; that this was a 
deep conviction and would influence their verdict, and 
that it would require strong evidence to convince them that 

i 5 6 


the defendants were innocent, when in all these instances 
the trial judge ruled that these men were competent 
jurors, simply because they had, under his adroit manipu- 
lation, been led to say that they believed they could try 
the case fairly on the evidence, then the proceedings lost 
all semblance of a fair trial." 

Then he went on to give his opinion of the judge. He 
felt no mercy, no charity toward Gary; he had sat on a 
bench himself— he knew well enough the extent of any 
judge's power. Recently, in a magazine article, Judge Gary 
had reviewed the Haymarket case, and now Altgeld quoted 
from Gary's article: 

" ' The conviction' Gary wrote, 'has not gone on the 
ground that they did have actually any personal participa- 
tion in the particular act which caused the death of Degan, 
but the conviction proceeds upon the ground that they had 
generally, by speech and print, advised large classes of the 
people, not particular individuals, but large classes, to 
commit murder, and had left the commission, the time 
and place and when, to the indivdual will and whim, or 
caprice, or whatever it may be, of each individual man 
who listened to their advice, and that in consequence of 
that advice, and influenced by that advice, somebody not 
known did throw the bomb that caused Degan's death. 
Now, if this is not a correct principle of the law, then the 
defendants of course are entitled to a new trial. The case 
is without precedent; there is no example in the law books 
of a case of this sort/ " 

To which Altgeld wrote, in answer: 

"The judge certainly told the truth when he stated that 
the case was without a precedent, and that no example 
could be found in the law books to sustain the law as above 
laid down. For, in all the centuries during which govern- 



ment has been maintained among men, and crime has 
been punished, no judge in a civilized country has ever 
laid down such a rule before. ..." 

Then Altgeld went on to block out a broad picture. 
Something strange and ominous and significant was hap- 
pening in the land. Just in the time of his own life, the 
people had been disinherited, divided, confused. Between 
those who labored and those who profited, a wide gap was 
making, and over that gap a bloody, murderous war had 
been raging for a dozen years. From underground had 
come organizations like the Knights of Labor and the 
Molly Maguires, painfully trying to weld labor together, 
to make a united force out of it— and counter to them, 
from the jails, the sewers, the gambling towns of the west, 
the city slums, from the pest-holes and horror spots of 
America, had come crawling the dregs of the land, bums 
and gangsters, thieves, gunmen, professional murderers, 
the rejected of society and the enemies of society, and they 
had been given a badge of pardon and immunity and 
welded together into the strangest army of mercenaries the 
world had yet known, the Pinkertons. They were a private 
army, privately armed and equipped, privately trained in 
the technique of violence— with only one purpose in mind, 
to battle and crush the rising organization of labor. 

Reminding the people how quickly, how efficiently the 
so-called Haymarket murderers had been railroaded to the 
scaffold, Altgeld in contrast pointed to case after case of 
Pinkerton murder that had gone unpublicized, unavenged 
by society. Coldly and deliberately he wrote: 

"Now it is shown . . . that in 1885 there was a strike at 
the McCormick Reaper factory on account of a reduction 
in wages and some Pinkerton men, while on their way 
there, were hooted at by some people on the street, when 

j 5 8 


they fired into the crowd and fatally wounded several 
people who had taken no part in any disturbance; that 
four of the Pinkerton men were indicted for murder by 
the grand jury, but that the prosecuting officers apparently 
took no interest in the case and allowed it to be continued 
a number of times, until the witnesses were sworn out, and 
in the end the murderers went free; that after this there 
was a strike on the West Division Street Railway and that 
some of the police under the leadership of Capt. John 
Bonfield, indulged in a brutality never equaled before; 
that even small merchants standing on their own doorsteps 
and having no interest in the strike were clubbed, then 
hustled into patrol wagons and thrown into prison on no 
charge and not even booked. ..." 

So it went in the pardon he wrote, affidavits, case after 
case, facts and details coming alive under the slow and 
methodical manipulation of his pen, and when it would 
occur to him that he was the first Governor of an Ameri- 
can state to write of such matters, he would pause and 
again try to grasp what might come of this. But that was 
impossible, for there were no precedents; as there had been 
no precedents for the conduct of Judge Gary in deliberate 
judicial murder, so were there no precedents for what he 

Yet it was not a matter of courage that was concerned; 
the motivation was chiefly neither courage nor an obliga- 
tion to others. If he had an obligation, it was to himself, 
and it was only for himself, for his need to make reason 
and justice out of the world he inhabited, that he wrote 
the bitter finish to his act: 

"It is further charged with much bitterness by those who 
speak for the prisoners that the record of the case shows 
that the judge conducted the trial with malicious ferocity 



and forced eight men to be tried together; that in cross- 
examining the state's witnesses he confined counsel for the 
defense to the specific points touched on by the state, while 
in the cross-examination of the defendants' witnesses he 
permitted the state's attorney to go into all manner of 
subjects entirely foreign to the matters on which the wit- 
nesses were examined in chief; also that every ruling 
throughout the long trial on any contested point was in 
favor of the state, and further, that page after page of the 
record contains insinuating remarks of the judge, made in 
the hearing of the jury, and with the evident intent of 
bringing the jury to his way of thinking; that these speeches, 
coming from the court, were much more damaging than 
any speeches from the state's attorney could possibly have 
been; that the state's attorney often took his cue from the 
judge's remarks; that the judge's magazine article recently 
published, although written nearly six years after the trial, 
is yet full of venom; that, pretending to simply review 
the case, he had to drag into his article a letter written by 
an excited woman to a newspaper after the trial was over, 
and which therefore had nothing whatever to do with the 
case and was put into the article simply to create a preju- 
dice against the woman, as well as against the dead and 
the living, and that, not content with this, he in the same 
article makes an insinuating attack on one of the lawyers 
for the defense, not for anything done at the trial, but 
because more than a year after the trial when some of the 
defendants had been hung, he ventured to express a few 
kind, if erroneous, sentiments over the graves of his dead 
clients, whom he at least believed to be innocent. It is 
urged that such ferocity or subserviency is without a paral- 
lel in all history; that even Jeffries in England contented 

1 60 


himself with hanging his victims, and did not stop to 
berate them after they were dead. 

"These charges are of a personal character, and while 
they seem to be sustained by the record of the trial and the 
papers before me and tend to show that the trial was not 
fair, I do not care to discuss this feature of the case any 
further, because it is not necessary. I am convinced that it 
is clearly my duty to act in this case for the reasons already 
given, and I, therefore, grant an absolute pardon to Samuel 
Fielden, Oscar Neebe and Michael Schwab this 26th day 
of June, 1893." 

And then, underneath, he signed his name, John P. 
Altgeld, Governor of Illinois, and then it was finished, and 
he went to bed that night and slept quietly and easily. 


Emma had two ladies from the United Charities in to 
tea when the subject of the anarchists came up, and one of 
them, a Mrs. Byce, said, "We hear the Governor is going 
to pardon them?" 

"Perhaps," Emma smiled. "The Governor does a great 
many things without consulting me." 

"How strange," the other, Mrs. Benson, remarked. "I 
mean you would think—" 

"Then he is going to pardon them?" Mrs. Byce said. 

"I couldn't say." 

"But won't that encourage them?" Mrs. Byce said. "I 
mean, they could just come out of the penitentiary and 
go on throwing bombs." 

"Dynamite," Mrs. Benson nodded. 

Mrs. Byce said, "Do you know, I read just enough of it 
to go into a teacup could blow us all sky-high." 



"But surely, Mrs. Altgeld," said Mrs. Benson, "you don't 
approve of this sort of thing?" 

"Of dynamite?" 

"Of anarchists and communists." 

"No, no, indeed." 

"But you said, the Governor—" 

"I said nothing about the Governor," Emma smiled. 

"It would encourage them." 

"There's no denying that it would encourage them," 
Mrs. Byce said. "I mean, to let them out of jail the way 
you would let a wild beast out of a cage." 

"I'm sure the Governor has taken that into considera- 
tion," Emma said. She excused herself for a moment, and 
as she stepped out of the room, Mrs. Byce, lowering her 
voice, said, "Poor thing, I'm sure she knows as little as she 

"You are?" 

"She's a lady. They say he's no better than an anarchist. 
Has a spittoon in his room. Eats with his fingers. She doesn't 
invite people to dinner. He doesn't talk very well." 

"You don't say." 

"He is a foreigner, you know. Of course, he's Governor. 
But you can't forget that he's not an American." 

"No, I don't suppose you can." 

"They don't— I mean they haven't— well— " 

"I've heard." 

"Separate rooms. That's why they have no children." 

"You don't say." 

"They say he has a harelip. They say if you look at him 
very closely, under his mustache, you can see it." 


"You know Mrs. Henly Smith?" 

"I've met her." 



"They had a son with a harelip. They put him in an 


"Yes. If we meet him, look carefully, under his mus- 


When Emma had read the pardon message, she said to 
her husband, "Why do you hate Gary so?" 

"I hate what Gary stands for." 

"But a lot of other people stand for the same thing. You 
don't hate them all." 

"I hate pimps. I don't like murderers, even on the bench. 
As bad as the master is, I like his tool less." 

"I see." 

He asked her bluntly, "What do you think will happen, 

"I think some people will be with you and others won't, 
that's all. If they don't want you to be Governor again, 
we can go away, we can take a trip somewhere, can't we?" 

"We could take a trip I suppose—" 

Yet the next day, when Mike McDonald called from 
Chicago, she knew what a dream it was to think of a trip, 
of pleasant sunny afternoons when there would be nothing 
for them to do but rest, but be together; she knew because 
she stood by Altgeld when he answered the telephone and 
heard him say: 

"Yes . . . yes, that's right. . . . You don't? ... I say I've 
made up my mind, that's all . . . that's all. . . . You can talk 
as much as you please, I'm listening. . . . No! ... I told 
you before that my mind was made up; in case you've 
forgotten, I'm the Governor. ... He can go to hell and 

i6 3 


be damned. . . . The party?— the party wasn't here when 
the world was created, the party's changed, and it's going 
to change a hell of a lot more!" 

He put down the phone and sat at his desk. He said to 
his wife, "Emma, it's going to be hard, it's going to be 
different. You were right, I hate Gary, I hate a lot of men. 
I love men too. They're going to line up. We're not all on 
the same side. I hate Gary. In that article Gary wrote for 
the Century he poured out his venom on Captain Black 
and his wife. I've got venom too. You remember, Black 
defended them. I was a lawyer, Emma, it doesn't matter 
that I differ from them, that I don't believe in what they 
fight for; I'm supposed to believe in justice, and I could 
have defended them and I didn't. I sat back, I sat it out, 
and they hanged Parsons by the neck until he w^s dead. 
Black defended them and went to their grave, and there 
he said something for which Gary never forgave him. Do 
you know what he said, what blasphemy, this— 'I loved 
these men,' Black said. 'I knew them not until I came to 
know them in the time of their sore travail and anguish. 
As months went by and I found in the lives of those with 
whom I talked the witness of their love for the people, of 
their patience, gentleness and courage, my heart was taken 
captive in their cause.' That was Black's blasphemy, for 
which Gary never forgave him, and do you know what 
his wife did, Emma? She wrote, in a letter to the Daily 
News, these devilish words— 'Often, as I took up one or the 
other of the daily papers, I would recall reverently those 
words of my Divine Master: For which of my good works 
do you stone me?' That way, Emma, she too earned Gary's 
hatred. Now it's my turn. Let him know that I despise 
him, and all that he stands for." 




Mr. E. S. Dreyer was a banker, a citizen of Chicago, and 
in many other ways a pillar of the community, and if he 
had been able to go to bed at night and sleep, history 
would have forgotten him and his round cheeks and his 
mustache, and the deals he made, the profits he garnered 
and laid away, the club he belonged to, the cigars he 
smoked; but he could not sleep much of the time, and 
when he did sleep he dreamed of four men standing on 
a scaffold, and they all said to him, calmly and logically, 
"You, Mr. E. S. Dreyer, murdered us." 

His doctor gave him bromides and said, "Nonsense! And 
as for Parsons and the rest of them, I say good riddance 
to bad rubbish." 

"I acted as I saw my duty, and why should I have any- 
thing on my conscience?" 

"No reason at all," the doctor said. 

"But I don't sleep and I don't rest." 


"If I sleep, I don't rest. I dream." 

"Keep your bowels flushed," the doctor said. "That's 
important. Keep your bowels flushed." 

But the keeping of Mr. E. S. Dreyer's bowels flushed 
proved singularly ineffective. Actually, no one in his own 
circle would have condemned Mr. Dreyer. For years he 
had never spent an evening at his club, at the dinner table, 
or indeed anywhere else where there was conversation with- 
out the conversation shifting, sooner or later, to labor; and 
when it did, how could Mr. Dreyer be blamed for joining 
in the chorus of vituperation and hatred? Hatred for labor, 
fear of labor, antagonism toward labor were as much Mr. 


Dreyer's second nature as any of the habitual functions he 
performed daily, dressing, undressing, eating with his right 
hand, and putting on a hat when he went outside. So it is 
not surprising that when Mr. Dreyer was made foreman of 
the grand jury in the Haymarket case, he should have 
raised a whisky and soda at his club and cheerfully pledged 
the death of the whole lot. Nor is it surprising that he 
confided to many of his good friends that the anarchists 
would hang, or he'd see himself damned. Nor is it sur- 
prising that he fought for the murder indictments and 
drove them through, so that finally all over town people 
who knew him said: 

"If anyone gets the credit, Dreyer should." 

What was surprising was that after the hanging of four 
of the defendants, Mr. Dreyer's peace of mind departed. 
Insidiously, the most natural reaction in the world, his 
own, became distorted until he began to think of himself 
as a murderer. And no matter how he hated socialism, no 
matter how much he piled up for himself proof of the 
abiding evil of communists, he could not tell himself, suc- 
cessfully, that he had not participated in the murder of 
Parsons and the others. 

He worked out his own atonement; he gave money to 
the cause of amnesty for the three who still lived. He 
signed petitions, he got others to sign petitions. He had 
bitter fights with his wife and his cronies, but he knew 
that his own peace and sanity depended upon the release 
of the three men. And he kept calling the Governor until 
Altgeld, annoyed by his insistence, asked Schilling about 
him. Schilling told him, and indicated that Dreyer wished 
to deliver the pardons to the jail. Altgeld's first reaction 
was of disgust. "He can go to the devil," he said. 

"You'll need support in this. Let him do it," Schilling 



insisted, and finally Altgeld agreed, and when Dreyer called 
again, Dose, the Governor's secretary, made an appoint- 
ment for him. 

"I want the pardons made out now," Altgeld said. "But 
I want it done quietly. Get Whitlock to write them out, 
and tell him to keep his mouth shut." Then, after a moment, 
Altgeld said, "Send Hinrichsen over here." 

Big Buck Hinrichsen was head of the Democratic State 
Committee, and his own political plum was the job of 
Secretary of State. When he swaggered into the office of 
Altgeld, whom he did not care for particularly, he was 
rather curtly told to sit down, while the Governor went 
on writing. Then Altgeld said: 

"Buck, I'm pardoning the anarchists." 


"You heard me. I've already ordered the pardons writ- 
ten, and my pardon message is at the printer's. I've put 
my reasons down there, and when you get a copy you'll be 
able to read the why and wherefor." 

"And you think that's a smart move?" 

"It's not a question of whether it's smart or not. I'm 
doing it." Watching Hinrichsen, he added, "Do you want 
to sign the pardons in person, or do you want to leave it 
for the clerk?'-' 

"I don't know. This whole business strikes me as one 
hell of a move. I don't like it." 

"I didn't call you in to ask you if you liked it," Altgeld 
said quietly. 

"Did you speak to Mike?" 

"I'm Governor," Altgeld smiled. "Do you understand 
that, Buck, for the time being I'm Governor." 




It did Altgeld good to see Brand Whitlock's face as he 

came in with the pardons. The boy was looking at him in 
a way no one had ever looked at Altgeld before. Altgeld 
was sitting behind his desk, and at one side of the room, 
in front of a bookcase and under a portrait of Abe Lincoln, 
the Chicago banker stood, nervous and eager at the same 
time, his plump face expectant. 

"Here are the pardons, sir," Whitlock said. 

"How do you feel about it?" Altgeld asked him. 

"I feel good. I feel terribly good, sir." 

"It's what you would have done if you were in my place, 
is that right?" 

"I think it's what I would do, sir. I hope it's what I 
would do." 

"This is Mr. Dreyer," Altgeld said. "This is Brand Whit- 
lock, Mr. Dreyer, one of our men in the State Department. 
Brand, Mr. Dreyer is going to take the pardons to Joliet 
and see the men out of jail." 

Whitlock stood there, wondering what he was expected 
to say to this, and able to say only, "I'm glad." 

"Well, it's time." 

"I wonder if I could ask you a question, sir?" 

Altgeld was signing the pardons, one by one, carefully, 
and blotting each just as carefully. "Go on," he nodded, 
without looking up. 

"Did you know Albert Parsons?" 

"I never knew him," Altgeld said flatly. 


The Governor folded the stiff sheets and offered them 
to Dreyer. At first Dreyer didn't move; then he shuffled 



over to the desk and took them, his face working all the 
time, like a man about to be ill. Then he started to say, 
"Well, Governor, well, Governor— I hardly know—" Sud- 
denly, he began to cry. His face worked convulsively, and 
the tears rolled down his fat cheeks. He walked over to the 
window to hide his face from them, from Whitlock who 
was staring at the floor in great embarrassment. 

"Go along, Brand," the Governor said. 

"Thank you, sir. For everything." 

The boy went out. Altgeld looked at his watch, said, 
somewhat harshly, "You'll miss your train, Mr. Dreyer." 

"I'm sorry. I'm terribly sorry." 

"All right." 

"I want to explain. The grand jury—" 

"I know. You don't have to apologize. You don't have 
to explain." 

"Foolish of me to act this way. It's a little bit of atone- 

"You'll miss your train if you don't go along, Mr. 

He was glad when finally Dreyer had gone. It was most 
unpleasant to see a man cry, and the more unpleasant 
when he himself felt no sympathy for the banker, none at 
all. He called in his secretary and told him: 

"Dose, I'll have to give out a statement, I suppose." 

"It's gotten out, sir, and the veranda's full of reporters." 

"What do they say?" 

"They say it's the biggest story since Lee surrendered." 

"Is it? What in hell are you so nervous about? They're 
not going to hang us." 

"Yes, sir." 

"Tell them I'll see them in half an hour." 

"Yes, sir." 



"What the devil is wrong with you? Are you frightened?" 

"I guess I've got too much imagination." 

"Well, sit on it. Go and tell them what I told you to!" 

He found Emma in her dressing room, sewing a lace 
collar on a blouse. She turned to him with a smile, her 
fine head tilted and alert. He kissed her, and then he sat 
down on a stool, looking up at her, watching her. 

"Then you've done it?" she said, continuing to sew. 

"That's right." 

"Are you sorry?" 

"Are you sorry?" he asked her. 

"I guess I'm a little sorry, Pete. I'm ambitious, Pete. I 
always was that way, I guess you know. I wanted you to be 
the greatest man in the country. You are, you know?" 

He laughed at her. 

"Well, I know. A woman knows a lot about her husband. 
But I'm not much of a wife, Pete. I'm frightened, I always 
have been. You used to frighten me." 


"Sure, Pete. Well, I'm still frightened. But I'm not sorry 
you did it. I would want to do something like signing those 
pardons. I never will—" 

"I think we're making a mountain out of a molehill, and 
that nothing much of anything will happen." 

"Pete, if the worst kind of thing happens, could you go 
away with me and be happy with me?" 

"Run away?" 

"If they force you, Pete?" 

He grinned and kissed her. Then he went back to his 
office. The reporters came in and crowded around ex- 

"Go ahead," he said. 

"Will you be quoted?" 



"No quotes." 

"Then you've pardoned the anarchists?" 


"Clemency, sir?" 

"An absolute pardon," Altgeld said slowly. "The men 
were never guilty. You can have my pardon reasons later. 
They can be quoted." 

Whistles from several parts of the room. Men scribbling 

"Will you imply in your reasons that Parsons and Spies 
and the others were innocent too?" 

"I do." 

The reporters edged toward the desk. Altgeld put his 
elbows on the desk, his face in his palms, his blue eyes 
bright and expectant. 


That night, while he slept, the news went through the 
land that the Governor of Illinois had pardoned the an- 
archists. All night long, as the stories were filed, telegraph 
keys clicked, and the details coming in, extracts from the 
pardon message, comments of the Governor, built up to an 
effect that scrapped the prepared editions in places so far 
apart as San Francisco, California, and Savannah, Georgia. 
Editorial conferences were hurriedly summoned, and news- 
paper owners were roused out of bed to render a decision. 
The news came to President Grover Cleveland as he was 
preparing for bed, and in his bathrobe he stamped back 
and forth across his chamber, swearing softly and then 
ordering a cabinet meeting for the next day. For King 
Mike McDonald of Chicago, there was no sleep at all that 
night, for a steady stream of raging bosses, heelers, and 



other large and small fry flooded upon him, and finally 
Marshall Field came to talk in no uncertain terms. Busi- 
ness at the Pinkerton Detective Agency, which had slowed 
somewhat, became suddenly most brisk, and three very 
important industrialists had a private meeting with Pink- 
erton himself. Congressmen were turned out of bed by 
telegraph messengers, and four United States Senators sat 
over their cigars all that night. Brand Whitlock lay awake 
making drama out of the slow movement of incident, for 
it seemed to him that nothing he had ever known was just 
like this, a man high in the governing circles of the nation 
making a choice between justice and all else that life might 
offer; and Emma Altgeld lay awake, thinking of the crude, 
uncouth farm boy who wanted to know all there was be- 
tween the covers of books and who spoke the weird half- 
German, half-English of the backlands. But the Governor 
himself slept, quietly and easily. 


And the next day it broke! 

He rose in the morning and he trimmed his mustache 
and beard and he looked at himself in the mirror, and then 
ate breakfast and took a horse around the grounds before 
the papers came. He was feeling fit and eager and a load 
was gone from his chest, and Parsons and Spies could lie 
more easily in their graves. Then he came into his office, 
and his secretary had the papers for him. 

That was the beginning. 

In a sense, the Chicago Tribune was restrained, for 
though it reported the story bitterly and one-sidedly, the 
worst it said editorially was: "The Anarchists believed that 
he [Altgeld] was not merely an alien by birth, but an alien 



by temperament and sympathies, and they were right. He 
has apparently not a drop of true American blood in his 
veins. He does not reason like an American, not feel like 
one, and consequently does not behave like one." But it set 
a keynote, and every Chicago paper of importance followed 
suit, the News, the Inter-Ocean, and the rest. 

The theme was plain, outlined and underlined, not only 
anger, but a growling rage such as had never appeared in 
American newspapers before. As John Peter Altgeld read 
the stories, smiling thinly as more and more newspapers 
came in, from downstate, from Cleveland, from west and 
east and south, one matter after another shaped itself into 
focus. Nervous, his secretary asked, "Do you want all the 
papers, Governor?' ' "All of them." "I think this is hasty 
anger," the secretary reasoned, trying to make it better. 
"Not hasty at all, not at all." It amazed him that the Gov- ' 
ernor seemed to be in such fine spirits. But at lunch that 
day, Altgeld told his wife: 

"The hardest thing in the world is to see what's in front 
of a man's nose. I could have pardoned the most depraved 
murderer, the worst sexual pervert, the most successful 
forger, the most skillful bank-robber, and they would have 
slobbered with approval. There's only one thing that hits 
them in the belly, and that's any threat to their rule. I 
shook the oligarchy, Emma, and I'm going to shake them 
more. I'm going to ride this. It's just beginning, but I'm 
going to ride it all the way through. I told them their 
justice was no justice, but a fraud, and so are their courts, 
and so is the whole dirty rotten fabric of their state. And 
they're going to take it, because the people will be with 

A new pile of papers were put down alongside him, the 
first one from the east coast with the headline: "anarchist 



governor slays justice." And another: "ruin and revo- 

"This isn't the people," he said. "Emma, let me see you 

"I can't smile. I can't smile at that." 

"Why? Because fat-bellied owners issue directives and 
tell them what to write?" 

"Because the whole world is reading that. My God, Pete, 
every one of them, every paper, every writer, every single 

"What did you expect?" 

"I don't know. You were right. You didn't do anything 

"My God, Emma, right and wrong— you keep harping on 
that. There is no right and there is no wrorig. We live by 
pig ethics and a pig code. I live by it! You do! That's this 
precious damned world of ours!" 

"But I thought-" 

"That some would be with me? Well, some will. The 
socialist papers will be with me, the labor papers— what is 
left of the old Abolitionist sheets, they'll be with me, and 
maybe here and there will be a man with guts, maybe one 
in a hundred. But I told them that their justice was not 
justice. I told them that they are capitalists, building a 
country for capitalists, and that means war to the death." 

"And for you—" 

"Let them shout! Let them wake up the country! I am 
sick to my stomach of the cheap little rats, the McDonalds, 
the Mark Hannas, the Armours— all the dirty little buy- 
ers and sellers of votes. There are seventy-five million 
people in this country, and they're strong— My God, Emma, 
they're strong! I'm talking to them, and they'll hear me. 
They haven't any voice now— this trash, these rags— it's not 



their voice. But they can be given a voice. They can be 
given a party. They can be made to understand that their 
votes are like a sledgehammer, ready to drive these rats 

So he sat in his office and did his work as Governor and 
read the papers and the mail and the telegrams. As he said, 
there was a voice here and there raised to support him, but 
the rest, by and large, all of it, not slackening, day by day, 
was hate, filth, condemnation, threats in the mail. It be- 
came a phenomenon, a thing that had never been seen 
before, not even when Booth slew Lincoln, not even when 
the guns fired on Fort Sumter; and no part of the nation 
was laggard. They called him an alien; they questioned his 
citizenship; they denied that he had ever fought in the 
war; they denied his legitimate parentage; they demanded 
his impeachment; they demanded that Federal troops march 
against the Capitol of Illinois; they called him a socialist, 
an anarchist, a communist; they inferred that he had per- 
sonally directed the throwing of the bomb; they wrote 
ugly, dirty stories of his relationship with his wife; they 
accused him of being a Jew and part of an international 
Jewish plot; they called him a dictator, a Nero, a Pontius 
Pilate; they said that he had both murder and lesser crime 
in his dark past; in almost every church in America, ser- 
mon after sermon was preached against him; and the news- 
papers that came onto his desk, raging with filth and 
venom, were like a geographical index: The Los Angeles 
Times, The New York Times, The Atlanta Journal, 
Harper's Weekly, The Nation, The New York Sun, The 
Chicago Journal, The Washington Post, The Boston Her- 
ald, The New York World, The Philadelphia Press, the 
New York Herald, The New York Tribune, The Louis- 
ville Courier- Journal, The Pittsburgh Commercial- Adver- 



User— those and a thousand more, all racing for a goal in 
venom. He was cartooned wild-haired, with pistols in each 
hand, with daggers in his teeth, with bombs, with sticks of 
dynamite; he was pictured strangling liberty, crushing lib- 
erty under his feet, snarling at the full-blown female figure 
of liberty, knifing her, shooting her, even raping her. 

And sometimes, there were statements of support. Almost 
without exception, the socialist and labor papers supported 
his stand. And here and there, small papers, small- town 
papers, little western sheets, hand-set, run by one or two 
men— these came out to back him, to praise him, to say 
that there were men who admired and loved him. 

Yet the other could not but have its effect. Emma saw 
the change in him, the widening streaks in his hair, a red- 
ness about the eyes; his carriage was not so erect. She came 
on him once as he sat at his desk, reading and re-reading 
a foul little verse from The New York Sun: 

O, Wild Chicago, When the Time 

Is Ripe for Ruin's deeds, 

When constitutions, courts and laws 

Go down midst crashing creeds, 

Lift up your weak and guilty hands 

From out the wreck of states, 

And as the crumbling towers fall down 

Write ALT GELD on your gates! 

He turned to her and said, "It's not nice, is it, my dear 

"How can you stand all this?" 

"All of it and a lot more." 

"Won't it ever stop?" 

"This is only the beginning, Emma. We go on from 
here. It's only the beginning for them— and for me too." 


Part Four 



1895, he finished a quiet, intimate, yet triumphant dinner, 
just himself, Altgeld, Governor of Illinois, Emma, his wife, 
and Hinrichsen, the Secretary of State, the three of them 
under the big crystal chandelier, intimate, confidence re- 
solved, Emma watching her husband with affection and 
admiration, Hinrichsen noticing how she looked at the 
Governor and thinking that a woman had never looked at 
him that way, and Altgeld smiling, pouring out a glass of 
clear yellow wine for each of them, and proposing the 
toast to his wife. 

She said the toast should be otherwise. "After two years, 

Hinrichsen proposed that they drink to the Governor. 
"Not to myself, Buck." "This is your night, this is what 
you worked for." "Only a beginning, a plan— the work still 
comes." "Then we drink to that," Hinrichsen said. "Then 
to success, to the plan." The Governor said, all right, he 
would drink to that. He stood up with his second glass of 
wine and had to grasp the edge of the table to keep himself 
from reeling, and smiled again to quiet the look of alarm 
that came into his wife's eyes. 


"A people's party," he said simply. 

His wife rose and walked around the table to offer him 
her arm, but there was something of annoyance in the 
manner of his refusal, as he said, "Go into the parlor with 
Buck, my dear. They'll be coming soon." And as she still 
looked at him, "I have a little work to get out of the way." 

"Yes. But you won't keep them waiting?" 

"Suppose you call me when they're all here." 

"All right." 

He turned away, and when Hinrichsen looked at her 
questioningly, she shook her head. Hinrichsen offered her 
his arm, but she didn't move until the Governor had left 
the room, and then she sighed and her whole body seemed 
to loosen, wilt. 

"He'll be all right, Emma," Hinrichsen said. 


"The man's tired. My god, when you think of what he's 
done— when you think of any man coming out from under 
the past two years, and coming out with half the country 
afraid of him, hating him, and half the country worshiping 
the ground he walks on— well, that's something to consider." 

They were walking into the parlor, and she stopped sud- 
denly, pulling her arm loose, facing the big man. "Is it for 
me, Buck? Is that what I should consider? Do you know 
that he's dying?" 

"No." And then added, very slowly, "I knew he was 

"The way he walks— you've seen that?" 


"He's forty-eight years old, and he's dying, and all he's 
ever known is struggle, no rest, no peace. I'm tired of it. 
It had to be this kind of a finish for him, out of his child- 
hood, out of all the rotten terror of it. Well, I don't want 



him to have this. I want him to go away, to have a little 

Hinrichsen nodded. 

She smiled, relaxed, became the hostess again. "He 
doesn't know what peace is or what a man is supposed to 
do with it. There are cigars in the cabinet, Buck. Please 
help yourself. Do you want some brandy?' * 

"I'll wait, thank you, Emma." 

She sat down on a small, plush-covered lady's chair, the 
wooden rosebuds of the back making a frame for her, 
hands crossed demurely, a gentle lady with graying hair, 
but still good to look at, still alive and attractive. She asked 
the big, red-faced politician: 

"Will he carry it off?" 

"What do you think?" 

"I think he could do almost anything. I remember how 
he was a boy with a German accent, and he read a book 
with a dirty finger marking out the words. That was when 
he fell in love with me, do you know?" 

"I know." 

"And he doesn't want to die. My God, Buck, none of us 
want to die. They tried to destroy him because he pardoned 
three men who were innocent, but he came out like a 
giant, and the people want him—" 

"Emma, stop it!" 

"Yes. You like him, don't you?" 


"At first you hated him. People hate him at first." 

"I like him." 

"All right. I won't be hysterical, Buck. Schilling will be 
here, and Joe Martin and Darrow and Sam McConnell, 
and it will be like old times, won't it?" 



"That's right." 

"And then he'll want me to go, Pete will— it's no woman'* 
world yet, is it, though it will be some day— but afterwards 
he sits down and tells me, word for word; it comes clearer 
and better, I suppose." 

Hinrichsen said, "You're a remarkable woman, Emma.'* 
He took a cigar from a gold case, snipped the end neatly 
with a cutter that hung on a gold chain on his vest, and, 
as he lit it, said, "Would it be violating any confidence to 
tell me why he hates Grover Cleveland the way he does?" 

"You know." 

"I know what anyone does, Emma. I know that during 
the big Pullman strike, the president pushed Federal troops 
in. I know that Pete stood up to him. I know what the 
Federal marshals were. But there's more than that. You 
don't have to tell me." 

"I'll tell you. Do you know how someone is bought, 
bought body and soul and hand and foot? Do you know 
you can buy a president? You want to know why Pete 
hates him— well, because he's a frightened man, a stupid 
man, a man who sold himself. When he came into this state 
with his troops, his guns, those thugs whom he swore in 
as Federal employees, Pete was ready to fight him. Yes. 
And what would that have meant? State militia ranged 
against Federal troops. Pete knew what it would have 
meant, and it was too big, so the men out at Pullman lost. 
Little men whose wives and children had nothing to eat, 
and they put themselves together to ask for something 
more. The Army came in, and they lost. Do you still want 
to know why Pete hates Grover Cleveland? It's not a 




Governor Pete Altgeld walked to his office with a slow, 
shuffling step. Sometimes, it was this way, sometimes less, 
sometimes more. Inside, a process was at work, the nerves 
were going, the fine connections were breaking down. He 
was like a man in a house going bad, the roof leaking, 
walls splitting, floors rotting; and like a man in such a 
house and unable to repair the damage done, he would 
sometimes vent his fury on himself. This was not the night- 
time fear, the fear that spread over his body so strangely, 
as if he were all a sponge and the fear water soaking through, 
creeping over his heart, paralyzing it almost with a signifi- 
cance of death and uselessness and finality, the utter ending 
of an ending; but this was impatience and anger in which 
he could curse God for giving him the body he had, ma- 
laria-wracked, disease-ridden; not fall into superstition and 
black magic, thinking of sin and payment of sin, but 
demand life and strength, harshly and imperiously— yet 

Sitting down at his desk, he put his face in his hands, 
and then lowered the whole of himself in the dark, until 
he lay with his shoulders and face and hands hunched 
upon the desk, inert and lost and angered and terrified, 
searching for himself and for something strong to put his 
two hands on, to hang onto and to hold himself up with. 

The thought of Parsons held out sustenance in the fact 
of Parsons' lack of fear; Parsons had stood on the edge of 
death and had not been afraid, but Parsons was young and 
strong and smiling, and Parsons had faith, more faith than 
he, more direction and singleness of purpose. Parsons had 
starved and gone hungry and ridden the rods of freights 



from town to town, talking to ragged mobs of workers, and 
never known what it was to have a hundred dollars of cold 
cash in his pockets, and never known the taste of yellow 
wine after a fine, rich dinner— so why did he look to him 
for strength? 

Thoughts of Parsons revived him from his despair, and 
substituted anger for misery. He had enemies; they hated 
him; he hated them. Parsons was quiet in his grave, and 
he, Pete Altgeld, had nothing to be ashamed of. He had 
fought Pullman, the way he knew, going over his tax ac- 
counts, making the city bite into him, the way he had 
fought the Tribune— the way it sometimes seemed to him 
he was fighting the whole nation. He had fought the presi- 
dent too. They could do nothing to him that he wasn't 
strong enough to take, say nothing about him. In New 
York, they said of him that he was a Burr without Burr's 
brains, a Johann Most without Most's decency, a Eugene 
Debs without Debs' courage— without Debs' courage. He 
turned that over and over; Debs had courage, no doubt of 
that— the same kind of courage Parsons had; they were cut 
out of the same cloth, and that was why he had waited so 
anxiously during the big strike to meet Debs. They had 
an appointment, carefully arranged by Schilling, and then 
Debs never showed up. What sort of wild ideas lay in back 
of his head as he waited to meet Debs? The President of 
the United States was sending troops into the sovereign 
State of Illinois. He was defying the president. If his militia 
had turned their guns on the Federal troops, what would 
have happened? Could history hang on such thin threads, 
or was it part and parcel of the sudden, impossible world 
he created as he waited for Debs to come? It had seemed 
to him then, only months ago, that a whole era of history 
was coming to an end, and that out of chaos would come 



something new and possible; but Debs never came; the 
Federal police took him, and the half-formed dream dis- 
solved without ever being. Now he had another way, a 
better way. He was not a Debs, a Parsons. He was a demo- 
cratic politician, and, as some said, the best America had 
ever produced. . . . 

His wife's voice broke through the darkness into his 
thoughts. "Pete?" 


"Sitting here in the dark?" 

"I must have dozed off." 

"You're feeling all right?" 

"Fine. Fine." 

"Are you—" 

"As a matter of fact, I never felt better." 

"They're here. They're all inside, waiting for you." 


"I put out brandy and cigars. You're sure you're all 

"Fine. Don't wait up for me, Emma." 

He always said that and she always waited, sitting and 
performing careful needlework on some useless piece of 
linen, sometimes until the gray light of dawn dissolved 
the shadows around her lamp. 


By midnight, in the parlor, the cigar smoke lay like a 
blanket of dirty gauze, and the faces of the older men had 
that gray look which comes with weariness and age. D arrow 
was lost in some inner contemplation; Joe Martin sprawled 
low on the couch, his legs thrust out; Schilling was hunched 
up; and Hinrichsen enveloped the lady's chair. McConnell, 

i8 3 


talking as he sipped brandy, was saying to the Governor: 

"Populism is a lost cause. No matter how I look at it, 
it's a lost cause. The people's party is going down, down, 
down, and in ten years it won't exist." 

"For the tenth time, I tell you this is not populism." 

"It amounts to the same," Joe Martin said. 

"Like hell it does! I'm not a socialist— you ought to 
know that if no one else in this fool country does. I'm the 
Democratic Governor of one of the biggest industrial states 
in the union. I'm no populist— I'm a Democrat! Do I have 
to drill that into your skulls?" 

"Pete— Pete, wait a minute," Hinrichsen said. "You're 
tired. We're all tired. Let's not get to calling names." And 
to McConnell, "Sam, let me put it this way. The party 
is rotten. All right, I grant you, that's a point of view. It's 
Pete's point of view, it's mine. It's rotten to a point where 
it doesn't matter a damn whether you vote Democrat or 
Republican. Suppose the Republicans put up McKinley, 
as they're very likely to do; suppose the Democrats put up 
Cleveland again? What's the difference— you tell me?" 

"Don't be an idiot!" 

"Yes, one's a Democrat, one's a Republican, but to the 
Morgans, the Vanderbilts, the Rockefellers, the Armours, 
the McCormicks, the Goulds— to them it's no damn dif- 
ference at all. They'd as soon have Grover as William or 
any other horse's neck that suits them. There's no more 
two-party system, there's a one-party system. Just in the 
past twenty years we've seen monopoly grow until it's like 
a fat, over-stuffed hog, embalmed in gold— gold— gold!" 

"And I say that's socialism!" 

Altgeld snapped, "Schilling, for Christ's sake, will you 
tell him what socialism is!" 



Schilling bestirred himself; Darrow began to grin, and 
Joe Martin flipped a coin back and forth, from hand to 
hand. "The hell with it," Hinrichsen sighed, spreading his 
hands wide, and Schilling said gently, "It's not socialism, 
Sam, not at all, not at all. It isn't socialism. No matter how 
you look at it, socialism does away with the private owner- 
ship of the means of production. We don't propose that. So 
it's not socialism." 

"Don't give me any damned schoolbook lectures," Mc- 
Connell growled. 

"Look, look," Altgeld said pacifyingly. "Let's understand 
each other. Our party, it's the party of the little man, 
always was, always, ever since Tom Jefferson made it. Read 
him. He made a party for the little man. Now it belongs 
to monopoly, body and soul. Grover belongs to monopoly, 
the party does, body and soul. And the password is gold. 
Ask the little man, the farmer— all over the state they're 
losing their farms— ask the small businessman how he's 
going to pay his debts, and he pays or goes bankrupt. Ask 
the workingman; every month he gets a dollar less in his 
pay envelope. I mean, we got something in common, some- 
thing to fight for, to give them. Give them silver, sixteen 
dollars of silver to a dollar of gold. Free silver coinage; 
that's a beginning. Gives us the farmers, the worker, small 
business— and the silver states. Gives us something to stand 
on. Then we fight; then out goes Grover onto his fat be- 
hind. Sure I hate him; I hate his guts; I want to see him 
down and nothing and less than nothing, but I want to 
see the party back where it belongs, back with us, back 
with the people and not with monopoly. And if you think 
we're alone, talk to anyone who's been kicked out because 
he tried to buck the millionaires." 



"And when you throw out the millionaires," Joe Martin 
said, "where do we find our money, Pete? I don't have to 
itemize a campaign for you." 

"From the people." 

"A dollar Democrat to a thousand dollars Republican?" 

"At its worst, yes. But we won't be alone. You and I 
aren't paupers, Joe, but we're sitting here and talking 
about this." 

"We can't do it," from McConnell. 

"I tell you we can. We can win Illinois. We can bring 
a solid delegation to the convention. We can line up the 
silver states, the farm states, even most of the south. The 
hell we can't do it!" 

"And a candidate?" 

"Dick Bland of Missouri." 


"Why not?" Altgeld demanded. 

"Because he's a roach! Because they're all roaches! You've 
talked to me three hours, Pete. Sure this can be done. 
You're right. It's been done before, it can be done again. 
I like it. I like to think of myself down there in Washing- 
ton, pulling reins. I like to think of Cleveland out on his 
ass. But there's only one man in this country who could 
run on that sixteen-to-one nonsense and make it." 

"And who's that?" 


There was a sudden quiet in the room. They looked at 
Sam McConnell, the Chicago judge who had suddenly 
became such a power in the city, as much perhaps as Mike 
McDonald, and then they looked at the Governor to see 
whether he was smiling or not. 

"You're serious?" Altgeld asked. 

"I'm serious as hell." 



"I won't argue with you, Sam. I was born in Germany. 
I was three months old when they brought me here." 


"That's right. I'd like to be president. I'd like to roll 
that on my tongue. But let's talk sense." 

"I'm sorry, Pete." 

"Never mind. Let's get down to business, it's late enough. 
I say it can be done, I swear it can be done. Will you come 
along with me?" He looked from face to face. "Sam?" A 
brief nod. "Buck?" "Sure as hell." "Clarence?" A nod 
again. "George?" A slow smile. "Joe?" "Right to hell, Pete." 

"Any doubts?" 

"I got doubts," McConnell said. "I don't think Bland can 
do it. I think we'll split the party at best. I hate that 
thought like hell." 

"We won't split the party." 

"What about your own health?" Darrow said. "You're 
going to have to carry this." 

"I feel good. I could say I never felt better." 

"Have you any money promised?" 

"That's a long way off. We'll get the money. We start 
small, we start gently. We work in the state committee, 
slowly, gently, first a word here, then a word there. Talk 
to people alone, and don't hit them over the head. Let it 
come from them. Get them thinking on how it would be to 
call a special party convention on silver. Don't lay it down 
the line. Just talk silver. And don't worry about the votes 
I control. Maybe there are enough of them to swing it, 
but I want it overwhelming. Every step of the way I want 
it overwhelming. We're not going to split the party— we're 
going to steer it, away from the east, away from Wall 
Street. Joe, I want you to work on Coughlin. Bathhouse 
John's been an alderman so long he's prepared to die that 



way. Well, start him thinking. Talk his own language. 
Maybe he can even be mayor some day. He'd like to think 
about that. Let him get out the torchlight parades and 
beer parties— that'll be along about June. Clarence, feed 
publicity; never mind my name, I want to be out of this, 
but I want the country to start watching Illinois. And 
George, we're going to need labor. My god, silver's no 
Utopia, but it can't be worse, can it?" 

"I think it might be worse," Schilling said slowly, more 
tired than the others, looking now, at this late hour, as if 
he had sold his soul. "But labor will support you, Pete. 
Who else has labor got to look to now?" 
"How's that?" 

"I'm tired, Pete. Labor will support you." 
"At least one big meeting on silver, George." 
"I'll promise ten thousand at a meeting." 
"Fine. The convention should be called next month, for 
June, I think. We'll be a year ahead of any other state." 

But they went on talking, and it was three in the morn- 
ing before they finally left. 


Emma sewed a pattern onto a piece of yellowed Irish linen. 
The needle went round and round, scooping and searching; 
when she heard her husband come in, she didn't look up, 
but went on with her embroidery, isolated in the pool of 
lamplight. Watching her, Altgeld wondered what her re- 
action would have been had she remained downstairs with 
the cigars and the brandy and the talk, and he was sud- 
denly sick and ashamed of himself, and knowing he had 
spoken too much, was puzzled to find sense in anything he 
had said. It was all muddled and disjointed now, and the 



grandiose concept of taking the government of a great 
nation away from those who owned it, seemed not only 
far-fetched but completely pathetic. His guilt magnified 
itself in relation to his wife, and the excitement with which 
he had finished the session evaporated. Watching Emma, 
he sat down in a chair. Finally, she put away her work and 
said, "It's very late, Pete, and hadn't we better go to bed?" 

"It was very successful, Emma." 

"Yes, I'm sure." 

"I mean, they listened to me. They didn't think it was 
impossible. They didn't think it was just a wild dream." 

"I'm sure they didn't, Pete." 

"And I feel fine." He accentuated that; he came into the 
light. "I feel fine— I never felt better, Emma." 


"You're angry with me, aren't you?" 

"I'm not angry, Pete. I'm tired, that's all. Two o'clock 
one night, three the next. How long can you keep that up, 

"I feel good, I told you." 

"Yes." She rose and put her hands on his face. "Pete, 
Pete, why do you hate the way you do? Why must every- 
thing be twice as violent for you? Why can't we be like 
other people?" 

"I'm not like anyone else. No one is like anyone else." 

"I'm sure, I'm sure." 

"And Sam McConnell is in it with us. Emma, I'm going 
to elect the next president. I'm going to sit in there as 
secretary of state. I'm going to say what and how and 


"Emma, Emma, let me dream, it's going to be so god- 
damned hard." 



"Pete, sometimes you frighten me." She took his arm. 
"Come to bed." 

As tired as he was, Schilling could not sleep. Blind paths 
hemmed him in; gates were closed. How many years now 
had he followed Altgeld, blindly, trustingly? When he put 
his finger here and there, to add up the figures, he was not 
without justification and confirmation The day after the 
three Haymarket prisoners were pardoned, he, Schilling, 
went out to the cemetery. At Waldheim, in Chicago, a 
monument had been erected over the graves of the five 
dead men. Parsons, Spies, Fischer, Engel, and Lingg lay 
quietly, and now men spoke words over their graves. By 
the hundreds, they shook Schilling's hand, and there was 
one tall, knifelike man who was introduced to him as 
Eugene Debs. Debs— Debs— Schilling had heard the name. 
Yes, Gene Debs. He took Schilling's hand in both of his, 
and his words didn't come like the words of other men, 
but fell on each other, like a hammer driving home a 
spike. "When a new kind of history is written, a people's 
history, they will not be forgotten, and not you, Schilling." 
People wiped the tears out of their eyes. "Well, what I did 
was nothing," Schilling said, "and who can make the dead 

There was standing next to Debs a little, withered Irish- 
man, Brian Donahue, who had seen with his own eyes 
what had been done to workingmen called the Molly 
Maguires; he crossed himself now and shook his head, but 
Debs put a hand on his shoulder and said, "Sometimes the 
dead aren't dead. When workingmen go on strike, then 
Parsons is with them and so is Spies, and who can kill 


them now? Ask Brian if the Molly Maguires are dead." 
Donahue said, "There are those walking and living and 
breathing and buying and selling, and sure as God was 
Jesus Christ whom they nailed to a cross with His hands 
outstretched because He wanted men to be free, then the 
five blessed martyrs who lie here are as alive as you are 
and I am. We will sing songs about them and make stories, 
and my grandchildren and yours will not be quickly for- 
getful." "So it's no small service," Debs said. "No small 
service, Schilling." "We all did what we could." "But what 
you did— all right, but some time I want to meet this 
Governor of yours." "Altgeld?" "Would he sit down and 
talk with me?" "We could meet again and go into it," 
Schilling said. 

But it was more than a year before they met again, and 
then Debs was waging war, with the Pullman Company and 
Pullman's warm ally, the government of Grover Cleveland, 
and Federal troops with fixed bayonets were bivouacked 
in the empty lots of Chicago, and three thousand thugs and 
desperadoes, wearing the badges of Federal marshals, were 
ranging the streets of Chicago, beating and killing work- 
men, and their wives and children, too, and many an inno- 
cent citizen who happened in their path. 

Schilling met Debs in his strike headquarters, a gloomy 
basement lit by one lantern; now the strikers were be- 
leaguered; warrants were out for the leaders. They moved 
from place to place, like hunted men, and a handful were 
doing the work of a hundred. But for all of that, Debs was 
delighted to see him, shook his hand warmly, and said, 
almost pleadingly, "Will he act, Schilling? Will he act?" 

"What can he do? Range his own state troops against 
the Federal police?" 

"He's the Governor of the state." 



"And you'd ask him for civil war? My god, Debs—" 

"What have we now, if not civil war? Does the Governor 
want photographs and affidavits of the dead workers who 
lie on the streets of Chicago?" 

"He's doing all that's in his power. He's standing up to 
Cleveland. He's fighting him in the only sane way, with 
the law and within the Constitution. The Federal troops 
will be withdrawn. The people are with him, but every 
newspaper in the country is against him— worse than with 
the anarchists." 

"But we'll break first." 

"He can't take sides. Debs, don't you see that if he takes 
sides, then he's finished. All he can demand is the law, the 
letter of the law—" 

"The law that murdered Parsons. The law that beats us, 
starves us, murders us, turns us into beasts." 

"I tell you-" 

"All right!" Debs stood up, towering over the little car- 
penter, drawn, haggard, and unforgettable too. At forty, 
he was coming out of one stage, into another, a man in 
flux and transformation and search, a man who reminded 
Schilling of Altgeld, yet so different that a real comparison 
could hardly be made. "All right!" he repeated. "Go back 
to the Governor! Go back and tell him that a worker dies 
or starves or rots as easily in his administration as in any 
other!" But when Schilling turned to go, Debs called him, 
his voice muted, contrite, "I would want to meet Altgeld. 
If I could meet him—" 

Schilling went back to the Governor, but Altgeld and 
Debs did not meet. But afterward, when the strike was 
broken, Debs arrested, Altgeld took the lead in a public 
subscription to feed the Pullman workers. At least that. 



A man does what he can do. But Pullman became another 
enemy of his, another of those he swore to war on, hunt 
down, get his claws into, and when Schilling reasoned that 
it was not Pullman the man, but the system, what Pullman 
represented, Altgeld angrily exclaimed, "It's the man, I 
tell you! Is there any law in this land that forces a man 
to be an unspeakable swine?" 

Again Schilling met Debs. Now he could almost see the 
process of thought behind Debs' face; in defeat, Debs was 
calmer, in a sense more determined and more confident 
than he had been at the height of the great strike. His 
face told about jail; the pallor confronted Schilling like 
an accusation. But he spoke gently and warmly. When 
asked if it was hard, "Not very hard. I had a chance to read, 
to study, to learn. I think that something new will have 
to come." 

"You mean socialism?" 

"A strike is won or lost, that's not a decision. We'll lose 
more strikes, we'll win, too. But even when we win them, 
we get the crumbs that fall off the plate." 

"I was a socialist," Schilling said. "This isn't a country 
for socialism. Even the workers don't want socialism." 

"They don't know. They live in a pit. Do you want sun- 
shine, if you've never felt it on your skin?" 

"Socialism is a theory, an idea. Sometimes I think it's a 
crazy idea, put forward by people out of their minds. It 
never worked anywhere." 

"It was never tried." 

"They tried in Paris." 

"Paris! My God, Schilling— you're going to sit there and 
tell me that in the French commune, socialism failed? It 
was never tried. The French and the Prussian monopolists 


made sure it was never tried. They murdered thirty thou- 
sand French workers in Paris alone. Do you forget so 

"But here in America, the people won't have it. What's 
the use of dreams— the people won't have it!" 

"Some day—" 

"But today! What about today? Today, at least, there's 
a leader. There's this man Altgeld." 

"Altgeld." Debs said it very quietly. 

"You don't believe in him?" 

"He's one of their men. The state he serves is their state. 
He's a politician, no better, no worse." 

"And the anarchists?" 

"I admit that he has a sense of justice. But the bullets in 
the guns of his militia are no softer than the bullets in the 
Pinkertons' rifles." 

"You have to believe in him. I know him. I know him 
for years and years. I tell you he's for the people, for the 
workingman. He believes in the people." 

"Maybe he believes in them—" 

"You could say that Lincoln was one of them too. But 
Lincoln was different. Lincoln fought for us, for the peo- 

"There were four million black slaves then. There are 
twenty million wage slaves today." 

"If the workingman supports Altgeld, I tell you, things 
will change. There will be no more shooting and clubbing 
of workers. The courts will be ours as well as the million- 

"I wish I believed that. Schilling, I wish I believed it." 

And now, trying to sleep, Schilling sought for his own 
belief, and found it in no sustained line, no horizon, but 
only in bits, in fragments that were not enough to make a 



whole, but only enough to bedevil a man and keep him 
from sleep. 


Altgeld took the first step the next month. For three 
weeks he worked frantically, setting every block in place, 
calling people, writing to them, lining them up, laying the 
foundation, so that when at last the Democratic State Com- 
mittee met, he could sit back and let the motion for a spe- 
cial party convention on currency come from the floor, 
from the rank and file. The date set was June 5, 1895. It 
was done quickly, quietly, expertly, and when it had been 
done, the section of the party headed by Cleveland woke 
up to the fact that they had been duped; at first, that was 
their only reaction; they had been duped, and Pete Altgeld 
was making a bid for state party leadership on the in- 
credible issue of free coinage of silver, the old homily that 
was the tool of every rabble-rouser in the west. It was John 
R. Walsh, a Chicago banker, an old enemy of Altgeld's via 
certain loans on the Unity Building, who first realized the 
full significance of what was happening. 

For years now, a gap had been widening in the ranks of 
the Democratic Party. Populism, the movement among the 
western and middle-western farmers for a people's party, 
the natural outgrowth of the people's party of Thomas 
Jefferson, had grown to great strength in the seventies and 
eighties; actually, the rise of industry had given it a death 
blow, and now part of it was going into the new socialist 
movement, part— the great part and impulse— into the free- 
silver wing of the Democratic Party. The grange associa- 
tions, the other farm associations, the small businessman, 
and the worker who saw his wages decreasing steadily, all 



sought desperately for some solution to the ruin that faced 
them. Money was scarce, and when the Federal govern- 
ment, under Grover Cleveland, stopped buying silver, 
money became scarcer. Debts piled up; farm after farm 
was put on the auction block; wages continued to drop. 
There was a wonderful and beautiful simplicity in the 
very simple answer that there was not enough money. Free 
silver coinage would solve all problems. Sixteen silver dol- 
lars to one gold dollar meant that the blood of the nation 
would begin to circulate again. The farmers could pay 
their debts. Prices would go up, but wages would go up 
even more quickly. It was hard to pick holes in this theory. 
You could talk your head off to a farmer or worker about 
cyclical depression, about capitalism and monopoly, but 
when you said that there wasn't enough money, that was 
something he understood, and when you offered silver 
money, to which there was practically no limit, as the cure- 
all, why he understood that too, and likely enough from 
there on was your man. Certain labor leaders tried to point 
out that money was no more or less than a relationship 
between the social factors of production and consumption, 
but their only tool of proof was the strike, and from San 
Francisco to Portland, the strike had been drowned in a 
sea of blood. In a country so desperate, Free Silver became 
an almost religious frenzy; even Altgeld saw in free coinage 
prosperity, an end to depression, and perhaps the break- 
down of the monopolies. 

And in Altgeld's call for a silver convention in Illinois, 
John Walsh, the banker, saw something almost as frighten- 
ing as the labor movement. He got on the phone to the 
president, and for a half hour hammered home his point. 
He liked the word revolution. He said, over and over, "I 
tell you it's revolution, Grover. I tell you if it isn't stopped, 



it's revolution." "They won't listen to him— they won't 
listen to that damned anarchist!" "They're listening." "As 
for the state, maybe. As for the country, it's out of the 
question." "My god, are you blind, blind?" "Then what 
do you suggest?" "Write something, act, issue a call to the 
party." "That blows it up." "Well, you can't blow it up 
any bigger than it is." 

Walsh held a private meeting in his office. Marshall 
Field came, and half a dozen other Chicago bankers and 
politicians. They talked heatedly and at great length, 
Walsh hammering home the point: 

"You're fools if you think it's going to split the party. I 
know Altgeld a little better than the rest of you. He's not 
trying to destroy the party— I wish to God I thought he was 
—he's trying to take it away from us, take it whole, and 
take the country along with it." 

"Nonsense!" someone said. 

"Nonsense— when you meet something head-on that's 
bigger than anything you could dream up yourself, then 
it's nonsense. I assure you, Pete Altgeld is the most dan- 
gerous man in America— not that anarchist tripe— he's dan- 
gerous at our own game, politics, votes. And unless he's 

"He'll be stopped," Marshall Field said. 


"There'll be a communication from the president to the 
Honest Money League. This dirty little upstart will be 
washed back to where he came from, the sewers. And 
meanwhile, Walsh, you hold a loan of his, don't you?" 

"I do," Walsh said thoughtfully. . . . 

The letter from the president came to Chicago, and Alt- 
geld met it better than halfway. He called the press into 
his office; he had a way with them that was something of 

i 9 y 


his own; he talked to them quietly and intimately, and 
there was sandwiched between his words a host of implica- 
tions which reporters understood, for all that they were 
unable to reproduce them in their papers. He framed his 
interviews in an attitude. This time his attitude was one 
of suppressed mirth. 

"What do you, think of the president's letter, sir?" 


"How do you mean—bad? Bad for the silver cause?" 

"My word, gentlemen. I say bad, I mean bad. Badly 
written. Trash. If anyone else's name was signed to that 
amazing flow of meaningless words, it would have been 
the laughing stock of the country." 

"Mr. Governor, isn't that putting it a little strongly?" 

"Strongly, oh my sacred aunt! Suppose I had signed it?" 

The reporters looked at him, at each other. They 
grinned. He grinned back. 

"You gentlemen are writers. I talk within the limits of 
the craft." 

They grinned more broadly. 

"What is your opinion of the president, Mr. Governor?" 

"Aside from the fact that he has sold America to the 
monopolies and his soul to Wall Street?" 

They were still grinning. 

"That's off the record. Aside from that, well— unprint- 

They roared; they came closer to his desk. Casually, he 
eased forward a humidor of cigars. "Help yourselves—" 
Some of those in front did; it was fine Havana. "Tell you 
something, gentlemen, speaking of the president. Who 
elected him? The people. Who pays him? The people. So 
maybe the people are beginning to be uneasy about this 
habit of his of sending Federal troops into sovereign states 



to shoot down strikers. You know, sometimes farmers don't 
like to lose their farms just because they can't meet their 
debts. Hard-headed people, farmers; it ain't easy to reason 
with them. I know. My own father was one of them. You 
tell them— just be patient and soon you'll die of starvation 
and go off to heaven and get your just reward, well, it just 
doesn't seem to sink in, they're so damned thick-skinned. 
So maybe they're beginning to wonder why their Demo- 
cratic president is married the way he is to Wall Street and 
so dead-set igainst silver money, which might let them pay 
off a debt or two, and they might be wondering where all 
the U.S. marshals come from, the way you see them flood- 
ing our west, like cockroaches over old cheese. Tell you 
something else, gentlemen, I was talking to a workingman. 
I said to him, Joe, how do you like being without a job 
ten months? He said, Governor, I don't like it one damn 
bit. I said, Joe, you think you got a right to stand there and 
tell me you don't like unemployment? He said, I sure as 
hell have, Governor. So I reminded him, Joe, your presi- 
dent, down there in Washington, thinks it's a Federal 
crime for you to talk like that. So Joe said, The hell he 
does! Then maybe it's time, Governor, that we had a new 
president down there in Washington. These are good 
cigars, gentlemen. No strings attached to them." 

More of the reporters lit up. An Inter-Ocean man, un- 
moved and hostile, said, "Any comment on the fact that 
the president is gunning for you, Mr. Governor?" 

Altgeld leaned back and sighed. He took a cigar and 
picked at the end of it. "Gunning for me. . . . You know, 
they tell a story about old Davy Crockett. Davy, he's out 
taking a walk in the woods, and he sees a neighbor taking 
a sight on something. Davy never did like this neighbor. 
Too close, too crafty, too mean. So Davy just stands and 

i 99 


watches him. Full ten minutes he stands there and watches 
this neighbor taking a sight with a sixty-inch squirrel gun, 
and for the life of him, Davy can't see what this gent is 
aiming at. Finally, his curiosity gets the better of dislike, 
and Davy saunters over. Out hunting, neighbor Jones? he 
asks. Neighbor says, shhh— shhh. Davy stretches his neck, 
but can't see a thing. What in hell's name are you shooting 
at, neighbor Jones? he asks. Neighbor Jones says, Crockett, 
sure as hell you're going to scare away the best dinner I 
seen in a fortnight. I got a sight on that big black bear up 
there in that tree crotch, and I'm taking a long sight be- 
cause I don't intend to miss. So Davy looks up at the 
crotch, and to save his life he can't see a blessed thing. 
Then he looks at neighbor Jones. Then he busts out laugh- 
ing. Damn you, Crockett, neighbor Jones yells, you sure as 
the devil scared away my game. But Davy's just standing 
there, holding his sides and laughing, until at last he gets 
up enough wind to say, Never was no game in that tree, 
neighbor Jones. You been standing there all this time 
taking a sight on a louse on your own eyelash." 


On June 5th, the silver convention met at Springfield. 
Bathhouse John Coughlin, who had staged more torch- 
light parades and beer picnics than he cared to remember, 
planned the convention from beginning to end, and it 
went off without a hitch. 

On the evening before it began, there was a torchlight 
procession through the streets of Springfield to the execu- 
tive mansion. The delegates walked arm in arm, eight 
abreast, chanting, "Altgeld! Altgeld! The son of Illinois! 
Altgeld! Altgeld! The son of Illinois!" Almost every citizen 



turned out to watch, and hundreds of children scampered 
in and out of the column, shouting and laughing and hoot- 
ing. Bathhouse John had planted thirty kegs of beer under 
ice at the fire-house, and since he let the word get around, 
it was practically certain that none of the citizens would go 
to bed before the demonstration had run its course. It was 
a part of Bathhouse John's unique genius as a politician 
that he sincerely loved people, and that made him see a 
demonstration not as a shouting, noisy mob, but as a 
rounded whole of the people. He handed out passes to the 
state grounds to every boy who would bring a date, and 
now as the parade came onto the lawn in front of the man- 
sion, it was surrounded by boys in their best suits and girls 
in crisp white organdy; and as they all gathered there, the 
Cook County band began to play a wonderful new song 
that was taking the country by storm: 

Oh beautiful for spacious skies, 

For amber waves of grain, 

For purple mountain majesties 

Above the fruited plain. 

America! America! 

God shed his Grace on thee, 

And crown thy good with brotherhood 

From sea to shining sea. 

All this time, Altgeld was standing behind the doors, 
Emma next to him, Brand Whitlock on the other side, and 
through a space in the curtains he watched them come up 
and onto the lawn. It was the first time he had ever heard 
the song played and sung by many young voices, and it 
moved him curiously. He watched the faces in the flicker- 
ing torchlight, thinking all the while of the hours he had 
spent with Bathhouse John, planning this, of how fixed 



and precise and manipulated every detail of it was, from 
the first beginnings to this to wherever it would take them 
—then meeting Emma's eyes, and knowing almost as well 
as she what was behind them, what thoughts, what fears, 
what endless, inescapable confusion. 

Then he felt the pressure of young Whitlock's hand and 
realized that out there they were chanting his name and 
calling for him. He couldn't go; he was rooted where he 
stood, and he felt that no force on earth could impel him 
out there onto the veranda. He looked at Emma with real 
terror in his eyes. Whitiock was urging him: 

"Please, sir, you must go out." 

He shook his head. All the hundreds of times he had 
spoken from platforms were nothing now; stark, craven 
fear took hold of all of him, head and foot and body and 
soul and brain; and then Bathhouse John, red-faced and 
triumphant, burst in crying, "What an ovation! What an 
ovation! Greet them, Governor!" 

The mood snapped. He went outside, and bowed, and 
the cheers rose up over the old cottonwoods. Afterwards, 
he hardly recalled what he said, something about no com- 
promises, a straight path— 

"Sixteen to one!" the crowd roared, and Bathhouse John 
sent his plug hat sailing, up and over the treetops. 

And the next day, John Peter Altgeld stood for five full 
minutes in front of a cheering, half-hysterical convention. 
When he said, "The time has come for us, the democrats, 
the Democratic Party, to stand once more for democracy 
and no longer for plutocracy," a roar went up such as he 
had never heard before. It was no longer a question of op- 
position. It was a question of how far, and in what direc- 
tion he, Pete Altgeld, wanted to go. He was the leader, 
acknowledged, and the party in Illinois would follow. 



When he declared for silver, they screamed approval. "Free 
money and free people!" They stood up as one man, 
shouting, "Altgeld! Altgeld! Altgeld!" 

"We point the way," Altgeld said. "We have declared for 
democracy. It only remains for America to follow." 


His reaction was one of lethargy and despair. He would 
work himself into a state of hypertension, and there would 
be a long, dreadful, sleepless night, during which pain 
crept through the stillness into every bone and muscle of 
his body— and he would lie in the dark with the awful 
realization that he was dying, that his miserable, short, 
ugly body was beyond repair or rejuvenation. Seeing what 
was happening, Emma was drawn to him more than ever 
before. The shadow of a great man was rising over the 
land, such a man as Jackson was, or Abe Lincoln, a peo- 
ple's hero, the sort of man they spoke about in the shops, 
on the farms, and in the work gangs; and it seemed a pe- 
culiarly bitter piece of mockery that living with such a 
man, sleeping with him and eating with him, she should 
find an infinite pity overshadowing every other emotion. 
In some ways, he was almost childlike; he gave vent to fits 
of temper before her; he did petty things; he retreated into 
self-pity— yet even for her and through all of this, his 
stature increased, and for the first time she found in the 
substance of her own life that incredible dignity of man- 
kind that is like nothing else. The mixed, blurred, faulty 
wonder of her husband extended itself to all people, and 
she found herself, after so many years of married life, be- 
ginning to be in love again. 

For the first time, his triumphs became personal and 



intimate to her. When the Illinois silver convention rang 
a bell through the land and the other states fell in line, 
Missouri, Texas, Mississippi, she was more pleased than he. 

When Grover Cleveland went south to rally, if possible, 
a whole area of the land against Altgeld, she drove her hus- 
band to head a delegation to the Exposition of the Cotton 
States, which was being held at Atlanta, and his triumphal 
tour of the south excited her as nothing ever had before. 
Now they would sit for hours and talk, in a way that they 
hadn't before and about things that they had never spoken 
of, breaking down the strange shame and reluctance that 
can exist for a lifetime between a man and his wife. His 
dreams and ideas somehow became more real, more solid 
for both, when he made word-pictures of them for her. He 
placed things before her almost naively; he let his thoughts 
run and leap, and then bound them in with doubt. They 
were sharing something they had never shared before. 

Buck Hinrichsen, meeting her on the lawn one summer 
day, said, "My word, Emma, you look as if you inherited a 
million dollars." 

"I feel that way." 

But best was that through this man, her husband, her 
own native land was coming into a focus it had never had 
before. She understood why so many people had remarked 
that he was the most American product they had ever 
known. His love for the land was no ordinary thing, no 
simple thing; not patriotism as she had understood pa- 
triotism, but an amazing identity with motley millions of 
people drawn from every land on the globe, a fullness that 
could not be content with this nation or that nation, but 
only with a nation of nations; that saw in the boiling, 
many-layered society of states the only complete hope of 



There was one evening when she had Brand Whitlock 
and Bill Dose in for dinner— he liked small dinners and 
young people— and the talk turned to Tolstoy. Altgeld read 
everything of Tolstoy's that came to the country, finding 
in him something he found in no American or English 
writer of this time. Yet tonight he was drawing an analogy 
between Tolstoy and Clemens, to the protests of both 
Whitlock and Emma. Whitlock went further than Emma, 
who would see Clemens only as a clown; but even Whit- 
lock demanded, "How can you draw any comparison be- 
tween Tom Sawyer, or even Huckleberry Finn and a work 
like War and Peace, sir? I don't see it, for the life of me." 

Emma said, "Dickens, yes. I could see a comparison with 
Dickens. But Clemens—" 

"Never Dickens!" Altgeld snorted. "Never, never Dick- 
ens! Not in the same breath, not in the same sentence. 
What is asked of a writer? You want to write, Brand— you 
sit at night, scribbling away. What do you demand?" 

"Of myself, sir?" 

"Of anyone. Of anything you read." 

"I don't know— I never thought of it that way. I suppose, 
to be entertained." 

"And only that?" 

Emma said, "Wouldn't it depend on whether you were 
reading for entertainment or for learning?" 

"We've made such a curse of learning, Emma, that you'd 
put it a world away from entertainment." 

"I mean, would I read your lawbooks for entertain- 

"Even there, Emma, you're ridden with a concept. 
There's drama in my lawbooks none of your garden novel- 
ists could dream of, the whole stuff of life and death, the 
best and the basest in men, crime and grand villainy and 



petty purse-snatching, the whole astonishing record of 
what man will do to his fellow man. But that's off the path. 
I asked Brand what he wants in a writer, and he says enter- 
tainment, which, in a way, is true—" 

"And more than that, sir. I don't know quite how to put 

"Would it be in this? When I put Clemens and Tolstoy 
together, it's because the one has found the soul of Amer- 
ica and the other knows the soul of Russia, but Dickens 
never went deeper than the soul of a shopkeeper. I've never 
been to England, but, my god, I find no smell of it in 
Dickens, no taste of it, no love of it, no real hope for it 
either, and I want a writer to give me that, and to give me 
people who love and hate and suffer and dream sometimes, 
like the poor devils in my lawbooks, or like the men and 
women in Tolstoy and in Mark Twain, not paper cutouts 
pasted over with so much fancy trimming that never an 
inch of the flesh shows through, if there is any flesh. So 
when you write, Brand, turn your stories into something 
more real than life itself. You only know what's outside a 
man in life, but sometimes a writer can show the inside 
and the outside at the same time." 

"You ask a good deal," Whitlock smiled. 

"Do I? Do you know what is most important, Brand, the 
be-all and end-all— simply good and bad, truth and un- 
truth, and there's no one to lay down a yardstick. Ask 
Dose. He's watched me long enough. Do you think I be- 
lieve in democracy, Brand?" 

"I think so." 

"You're kind. I wish I had a dollar for everyone who 
thinks otherwise. But I'm not asking too much when I ask 
for the real thing, for some of the flesh of life. You believe 
in democracy, but it doesn't happen by itself. If you don't 



get out the vote, someone else will. Maybe there isn't any 
democracy here, maybe there never was. You believe in 
democracy, but if you leave it to happen you go down un- 
der and there's nothing. So you become a cheap ward 
politician, blown up, only you do it better. You beat them 
at their own game. But you can't look in the mirror and 
face yourself. That's the reality—" 

Whitlock listened, embarrassed, and was grateful when 
Emma turned the talk back to books; she did so deftly and 
easily, but she shared too much of her husband's moods 
not to be affected. She thought to herself, "It will be better 
when the thing is under way. He can't stop now. If he 
stops, it will be the end of him." 


He didn't stop. He drove onto the state Democratic con- 
vention with a fury and intensity the country had not seen 
before. For the next several months, it seemed that there 
was hardly a day's press where the name of Altgeld didn't 
break into the headlines. Instead of withering under the 
abuse that was showered upon him, he gained stature and 
appeared to draw sustenance from it. The more the silver 
theory was attacked, the more he leaped to its defense, and 
by now he believed that it was the only issue upon which 
the American masses could be united. He used the lan- 
guage of his enemies; he attacked them; he gave them no 
peace. He had Bill Dose line up a staff of researchers, and 
they dug into the lives of his enemies, of the Democrats 
who supported Cleveland, of the gold people. They wanted 
it hard and dirty and low— well, he would give it back to 
them in the same coin. When Carlisle, Secretary of the 
Treasury, attacked him, he flung back proof that some 



years ago Carlisle himself had spoken for silver. He did the 
same with Bishop Woodry; when the bishop accused him 
of godlessness, he gave the number of those who had died 
of starvation in Woodry's parish, and his researchers gave 
him the facts of the bishop's forty-thousand-dollar-a-year 
income and what was done with it. 

His mood changed. He drove himself, but he was happy, 
more lighthearted than he had been in years. He engaged 
in a war to the death with the Chicago Tribune; he sent 
his blows in twenty different directions. For years he had 
studied law, practiced it, judged it from the bench; now he 
forged his knowledge into a two-edged sword and let his 
enemies know that he was ready to use it. He dug up every 
technical violation of a state law, of statutes that went back 
to the time when the state was created, and he served out 
a steady stream of subpoenas, dragged his enemies into 
court, had their books examined. 

And he pardoned. Pardoning John, they called him, and 
he grinned back and continued to pardon. Wherever there 
was reasonable doubt, wherever a man had been framed, a 
poor damned woman railroaded, a worker condemned 
with only a mockery of a trial, a homeless, unemployed 
wretch dragged into court and tried and convicted to clear 
an embarrassing blotter, a labor organizer beaten up and 
jailed for assault, he used the power of executive pardon. 
He did it because it made those who hated him scream with 
rage and anger and demand his impeachment, but he also 
did it because he could not live without groping for the 
essence of right and wrong, and because a long time ago 
certain men, whom he never mentioned now, had died 
upon a gallows. 

When the reporters asked him, "Governor, what do you 
make of the threats in the eastern papers?" he smiled and 



told them, "This is the sovereign State of Illinois. When 
the people of Illinois tire of me— the people, mind you, not 
the newspapers— they can throw me out. Until then, I'm 

So when, the following June, the state Democratic con- 
vention assembled at Peoria, the eyes of a whole nation 
were turned there, and a hundred newspapers screamed, in 
one variation or another: "Is this the beginning of Alt- 
geld's reign of terror?" 

He had worked hard; he had planned well. Forty-eight 
delegates to the Democratic national convention, the whole 
number for the state, declared for silver, voted John Peter 
Altgeld state chairman, and pledged to support him. 

Once more he listened to the bands, the shouting, the 
torchlight parades. He sat in a hotel room with his old 
friends, smiling just a little, and when someone asked him, 
"What do you make of it, Pete?" he said, "It could be a 
beginning for something. It could, you know.'' 


Back at Springfield, Sam McConnell called him, and said, 
"Pete, you'll have to see Bryan." 


"Bryan. You heard me. William Jennings B-r-y-a-n, the 
nightingale, the boy orator of the plains." 

"Sam, Sam, look— I don't have to cover up for you. I'm 
sick, I'm sick as hell. And I've got a big job to do. I want 
to get it done. I want to do one decent act before I make 
up my bed, and that's to put a president in the White 
House who isn't an errand boy for Rockefeller or a book- 
keeper for Morgan. We decided that Richard Bland might 
carry it off. All right, there's enough to do, isn't there?" 

20 9 


"Take it slowly. I said see him. Shut him up." 

"My God, Sam, do you know what he wants? Do you 
know what that fool with the pap still wet on his lips 
wants? He wants to be president. That's all he wants." 

"I know. That's why I say, see him. Shut him up." 

"Suppose you shut him up. Do I have to talk to every 
hare-brained idiot who decides he wants to be president? 
Bland's no knight in armor— I know that. But he's been in 
congress, he's been in the Senate. He's as honest as any of 
us, and he's with us. He's made a hell of a name for him- 
self in Missouri, and he's stood steady on this silver thing 
for a long, long time, and the people will look at him and 
say, this isn't a revolution, this is an honest man and it's 
time we had one like that in Washington. Do I have to 
make political speeches to you?" 

"You don't have to, Pete. For God's sake, talk sense." 

"I'm talking sense. But when every minute counts from 
now to the convention, you want me to waste hours with 

"Have you ever heard Bryan talk?" 

"You know I've heard him. I heard him at the silver 
convention. I've heard auctioneers and street hawkers and 
Indian medicine men, too." 

"Pete, see him. Please. Do it for me. You can whittle 
him down. I don't know who else can. I've insulted him, 
laughed in his face, and done everything but pull his long, 
lovely hair— and he still wants to be president. And, so help 
me God, Pete, I'm afraid of him, the way you're afraid of 
a little boy who's a lot stronger than most men." 

"I'll see him." 

"Pete— thanks. You know, I'm getting no younger; 
neither of us is. You get old and you get afraid. You have 

21 o 


bad dreams. Well, this is our last chance, Pete. God help 
me, I don't know my country any more." 

So he saw Bryan. In his thirties, tall, handsome, the long 
dark hair like something out of another century, Bryan 
first strutted, then orated, then wheedled. Altgeld watched 
him, chin in palms, and answered shortly and dryly. 

"You don't trust me," Bryan finally said. 

"Look, son, it's not whether I trust you or not. But it's 
funny about this job of running the country, and what it 
means to our people. Not that you can't fool them—" 

"Then I'm a fraud!" 

"Not that you can't fool them— they've been fooled so 
many times that it makes you ache to think about it. 
They've been fooled into thinking that their two parties 
are different, when right now they're as alike as peas in a 
pod. They've been fooled into voting for the wrong man; 
they've been fooled into voting themselves into serfdom 
and chains. They've been fooled into voting themselves 
into starvation and misery and heartache. And still when it 
comes to a president, they think it's a job for the best man 
the country can produce." 

"But I'm not the best man," Bryan said. "Why? Why 
can't I convince you?" 

"Maybe you wouldn't be able to convince the voters for 
the same reason. You're a young feller." 

"I've been in government. I've been tried—" 

"Sure. Sure you have. And maybe someday you'll be five 
times the man Dick Bland is. Maybe now. But it isn't just 
a job of making one man president— you know that as well 
as I do. It's a job of throwing a pack of scoundrels out of 
Washington and giving the country back to the people 
who made it. It's bigger than any one man. It's too big to 
jeopardize. I'd like to be president too, son. I'd like it a 



hell of a lot. Well, I can't. Neither can Sam McConnell. 
Neither can Daniel. Neither can Hinrichsen. You see, we 
can't fool the people. We don't have the forces, the money, 
the ballyhoo, the machine." 

"But the people would follow me. I tell you—" 

"Bill, you're a good speaker. You got a good tongue 
there. You got a head on your shoulders, too. But I think 
you're a little young to be president. Don't break down 
this thing. We've worked too hard on it. We've built too 
long and too carefully." 

"All right. If that's the way you feel about it, there's 
nothing else I can do. Unless they want me—" 

Altgeld rose and put his arm around Bryan's shoulder. 
He walked with him to the door, talking, repeating words 
and more words. And afterward he felt sick and angry and 
disgusted. To have to plead like that with a fool, with a 
strutting peacock who wanted to be president! Afterward, 
he wanted to wash his hands of the whole thing, be rid of 
it and done with it, with politics, with this whole business, 
never to argue or plead or bully or cozen again as long as 
he lived. 


Before the national convention began, Emma took a suite 
of rooms at the Sherman House. She was glad to be back in 
Chicago; in some ways, after so long a time at the execu- 
tive mansion, it was like a homecoming, like a return to an 
upset normalcy that was not comfortable but certainly 
natural. It was good to shop again, to stand on the lake- 
front, to walk on the dirty streets, to watch the crowds that 
were like crowds in no other city in the world, to see the 
haze of smoke hanging over the factories, to feel the strong 
smell and to hear the violent sound of Chicago. 



She thought it might be good for Pete's health, but it 
wasn't; it couldn't have been. He took over the parlor of 
the suite, and no matter how she aired it, the smell of cigar 
smoke and stale alcohol never departed. Instead of getting 
better, the gray pallor of his face increased, and the shuffle 
in his walk became more pronounced than ever. 

All day long a steady stream of men went in and out of 
that room; all day long the rising, falling sound of voices 
came from there. A core was being made there, a unit of 
forces from every state in the union. From the very begin- 
ning, Emma had followed the steps of insurgence, the first 
wildcat state committee meeting, the silver convention, the 
vicious, all-out attack on Grover Cleveland and the other 
big business forces who controlled the party, and finally 
the state convention— yet with all that in mind, she still 
found it difficult to comprehend how in the short space of 
one year, her husband had become the undisputed leader 
of the National Democratic Party. Yet it was a fact. From 
Texas, from Missouri, Arkansas, Virginia and Pennsylvania 
and Colorado, from state after state came the delegations, 
and in almost every case their first point of contact was the 
suite of rooms in the Sherman House. 

She became conscious of two Americas: the surface, 
vocal America, the America of the Newspapers, the pul- 
pits, the courts, the banquets, and the after-dinner speakers 
—that America hated and castigated Altgeld; to that 
America, he was the enemy of his land, the first villain, a 
horned devil who had espoused socialism, communism, 
and every other ism that had ever existed— except, of 
course, capitalism and patriotism— and whose sole purpose 
was to bring down the republic in ruins. But there was 
another America, almost voiceless, the America of the 
farmer, the workingman, the small businessman; and to 



them, for all the screaming of the newspapers, Altgeld was 
something rare and new, the kind of a leader they had 
been waiting for. By an accident of birth, he had been 
denied the presidency, but no accident denied him leader- 
ship of the party., 

So they came from every corner of the land, eager to see 
him, to put eyes on him and shake his hand, to be able to 
say to him the words most of them had planned so care- 
fully: "We cried down there when we heard about Hay- 
market and what you had done." "You got friends in Cali- 
fornia, Governor." "I remember old Abe— he used to say, 
trust a man whom the rich hate." "Down our way, they 
tell it, everyone hates Altgeld but the people." 

They found a small, tired, bearded man. They heard a 
low voice that had a file-like quality. When he moved, 
they realized, that he was weak and sick, but that was an 
impression that didn't last, and after a day or two they 
could no longer think of him as a sick man. The most 
lasting impression was that of the blue eyes, alert, spar- 
kling, two spots of youth in an aging body. 

They came with no united purpose, no formed plan, 
only the confidence that this was an opportunity for revolt 
that had not existed before. They met Buck Hinrichsen at 
the door, and he brought them in and introduced them to 
the Governor. Those who had been politicians and nothing 
more than politicians had a new feeling; the job-seekers, for 
a while at least, thought of other things than their possible 
spoil; the plain citizens thought about how some day, tell- 
ing this, they would remember how it had been to meet 
Pete Altgeld. Altgeld talked to them; he told stories; he 
dug up mutual acquaintances from their states. Some- 
times, he mentioned Dick Bland of Missouri, and hoped 
they would see their way to supporting him. They all came 



with local favorite sons, and there was a real danger, which 
Altgeld recognized, in starting a boom too early. He laid 
the emphasis on issues they held in common, an anguished 
need for security, a hatred of monopoly, a dread fear of this 
new thing that had arisen, government by injunction, or 
an extension of the power of the court to a point where it 
could quell revolt by declaring action illegal even before 
the action had occurred, and the faith in free silver coinage 
as a cure-all for every kind of evil. 

Emma tried to hoard his failing strength, but from the 
beginning, it was a losing battle. This was his great mo- 
ment, the time he had worked for and hoped for; now he 
was not going to hold back, and nothing on earth could 
make him hold back. When a delegate asked him, "Have 
you got a slogan for this convention, Governor?" he an- 
swered, sharply and shortly, "No compromise— that's our 
only slogan!" 


A big man came to the hotel suite and told Buck Hinrich- 
sen that he wanted to see the Governor, but he wasn't a 
delegate— still he wanted to see the Governor, he thought 
it was important that he should see the Governor. His 
name was Mark Woodbridge, six feet and three inches, 
with the coal dust deep in his pores and in the lines of his 
hands, saying plainly enough that he was a miner and 
never would be anything else. He was dressed in a black 
Sunday suit of clothes that clung to his ankles and his thick 
wrists, and he kept turning his hat nervously, over and 

"What about?" 

"About Peoria. About the strike in the mines down 
along Peoria way." 



Well, didn't he know that the Governor was up to his 
ears with the delegates and with the business of the cam- 
paign, and that this was in the nature of a caucus? And the 
Governor couldn't see just anyone, although the Governor 
would. All this patiently, for Buck Hinrichsen was old- 
timer enough to know that at convention time you don't 
insult anyone, ten voters or one voter. 

"Well, suppose you tell the Governor I'm the brother- 
in-law of one of the four men he pardoned, up on murder 
and convicted for killing during the strike. At the Peter 
Little mines, you remember?" 

"I remember," Hinrichsen nodded. He did. He had 
argued the matter with Altgeld, pointing out that this on 
top of the Haymarket pardon would be insane. "Then I'm 
insane, because these men are as innocent as you are, 
Buck, and maybe more so," Altgeld said, and then had 
gone ahead and pardoned them. 

Hinrichsen said, "Wait a minute," and then went in and 
told the Governor. "I want to see him," Altgeld said. 

Woodbridge came into the room, and stood there, look- 
ing at the little bearded man who was Governor. Two 
southern delegates were in the parlor, and Bill Dose, who 
had been taking dictation, and Sam McConnell, standing 
by the window and smoking a cigar. 

"Glad to meet you, Woodbridge," Altgeld said. 

Woodbridge nodded, still turning the hat, appearing to 
fill all the space left in the room. His Adam's apple moved 
convulsively, and Altgeld guessed that he was embarrassed 
and not a little awed. 

"You must have had a good reason to come all the way 
up here to see me," Altgeld said, trying to make things 
easier. "If you came up just for that?" 

"I did." 



"All right. Don't worry about these folks here." 


"Go ahead and talk, son." 

Sam McConnell turned to look at the miner, and now 
the two southern delegates were watching him. 

"Well— we had a meeting down our way. Maybe I ought 
to start back. My sister would have been left with three 
kids, if you'd have let them hang him." 


"At the Peter Little. I swear to God, Mr. Governor— I saw 
it happen. They were innocent, all right. Never came near 
the place where the men were murdered. My God, our 
own men were murdered, and by the scabs they brought in 
from upstate. But then they arrested the union leaders—" 

"I pardoned them, didn't I?" Altgeld said shortly. 

"Yes, sir. I want you to know you didn't make no mis- 
take. So we held a meeting and took up a collection to 
send me up here, to tell you that you and whatever man 
you're standing for got three thousand votes down there, 
just as solid as anything could be. That's all." 

"You came up here for that?" 

"Yes— we didn't know what else to do. They thought 
they ought to send me." 

"Thank them for me," Altgeld said. 

"Yes, sir." 

"I hope you get a good man to vote for, a good man for 

"Yes, sir. The way we feel— well, they told me to say it 
ought to be you. We don't know how you do it, but we 
feel it ought to be you." 


"I couldn't go back and say to them that it'll be you?" 

"No— it won't be me. It'll be a good man." 



"All right. Ill tell them that. Thank you." He started 
for the door, but Altgeld stopped him. 

"Wait a minute. What did it cost you to come up here?" 

"Twenty—" Altgeld was digging into his pocket; the 
miner stopped short, shaking his head to the rhythm of his 
turning hat. "No, sir," he said. 

"Expenses, that's all. You ought to get it back." 

"No, sir," the miner said evenly. Then he left. Then 
Altgeld turned to Judge McConnell and murmured, 
"Jesus Christ! Oh, Jesus God." 

"So it's three thousand votes if he isn't lying. That 
doesn't make anyone anything." 

"You couldn't see if something was painted on the wall. 
Underlined, too." 


"All right. Then let's get down to work." 


They drafted a platform, a rough draft scribbled down in 
pencil, in a smoke-filled, whisky-sodden room, Altgeld, 
McConnell, Jones the Arkansas Senator, and Tillman of 
North Carolina, and Bathhouse John of Chicago, and 
Schilling for part of it, and Darrow called in to lend his 
acrimonious voice, and Boies, the Governor of Iowa, and 
a half dozen more, coming in and out, summoned hur- 
riedly, in the middle of the day or the middle of the night 
—and always it was Altgeld's flat, probing voice that took 
the lead, that pulled them out of the morass of generalities 
back to the fact: 

"I tell you, gentlemen, that you either open your eyes or 
go back to the tall woods. We're not living in Jefferson's 
day. In Jefferson's day there wasn't a factory in this land 



that employed more than a hundred men, and now how 
many are there that employ ten thousand or fifty thou- 
sand? That's the fact, the core of it. Are you for the work- 
ingman or against him?" 

"Of course, we're for him! For Christ's sake, Pete, stop 
harping on that." 

"Then if you're for him, put it down in black and 
white. Put it down specific, where he can read it." 


"Oh, my aunt! I am so goddam sick of that!" 

"What are you asking for, Pete? Come out with it? Do 
you want socialism?" 

"Socialism! Now what in hell is socialism? Suppose you 
tell me! If we're against government by injunction, is that 
socialism? If we're for arbitration of labor disputes, is that 
socialism? If we're for a square deal for labor, is that so- 
cialism? Would it be socialism if a workingman could 
come into a court and know that the damfool on the bench 
wasn't a hired hand of Pullman or John D. Rockefeller? 
If that's socialism, then you're a monkey's uncle!" 

"Now wait a minute, Pete. Now just take it easy. We've 
all agreed that we're for a general plank on the rights of 
labor. Nobody's disputing that with you." 

"Sure. You're aware that you've kicked over the bucket 
and the milk's out. You can't put it back, you can't lick 
Grover's ass any more, and you either get the farm and 
labor vote, or this is the biggest defeat the party ever suf- 

"If you want to put it that way." 

"And I tell you you're not going to get labor's vote with- 
out putting down in black and white just why a working- 
man should vote for us. We got good intentions and a 
little gravy to splash around, and the Republicans got 



twenty million dollars to spend. That's what a general 
plank needs— it needs twenty million dollars to make the 
lies stick." 

"Governor, be reasonable!" 

Be reasonable, be reasonable— it was a refrain that they 
threw at him, hour after hour and day after day; and day 
after day, he fought back, snarling sometimes, spitting, 
wheedling, pleading, and then snarling again. And some- 
times it would appear to him, with a clearness and lucidity 
he had never experienced before, that all of this was hope- 
less, that though he had fought Grover Cleveland and the 
trusts he represented, and defeated Cleveland— through 
some amazing process the trusts had won, and these too 
were the trusts' men; and even his own actions were 
checked and frustrated on every hand, so that he was as 
little a master of himself as these men with him, and their 
evasions, for which he despised them, were not too dif- 
ferent from his own evasions. 

As when they brought him to bay and demanded, 
"Then what are you against, capitalism?" 

He laughed that away. "Go look at the Unity Building," 
he told them, and that too was an evasion. 

"Yes or no?" 

"I'm for democracy," he said. "I'm for justice, that's 
plain enough." But inside, the question lingered, and the 
answer he gave them was as meaningless as his silver 
formulations sometimes seemed, and there was less and 
less sense and reason in the world. But he fought because 
only by the equation of justice and democracy could he 
draw strength from his failing body to go on, and the in- 
credible strength of him, the rasping voice out of the 
huddled body, the sparkling, intense blue eyes, the fury 



of his attack forced them back, and point by point they 

One by one, they wrote in his demands, specifically, ". . . 
we especially object to government by injunction as a new 
and highly dangerous form of oppression ... we denounce 
interference by Federal authorities in local affairs as a 
violation of the Constitution of the United States . . . labor 
creates the wealth of the country ... we demand the pas- 
sage of such laws as may be necessary to protect it in all its 
rights ... we demand a Federal income tax, to be grad- 
uated ..." They argued about form, but Altgeld said, 
'Tut it down. Put it down in black and white, and we'll 
shape the form later." 

They put it down. The platform became his platform. 
But an undercurrent of rebellion was kindling. When he 
had finished and won and lay back in his chair in a state 
of semi-exhaustion, a condition so common of late, Judge 
McConnell said to him, "Don't drive them too far, Pete." 

"I have to." 

"We lose this chance—" 

"Then we lose all," Altgeld said flatly. 


Altgeld was glad to see Joe Martin. He had been in and 
out with others, but Emma had begged him into one of 
the very few quiet dinners she was able to manage. "Joe, 
make him get hold of himself," she had said. Martin 
asked, "Is he bad?" "I don't know. He lives on nerve. I 
don't know, Joe. It would be terrifying if one man thought 
he could remake a country, a man whom they spat on and 
ground underfoot and thought they had destroyed— but 
he's doing it, do you see, Joe?" "I know he's doing it." 



"But he's afraid— if one little prop is pulled out. Do you 
know how shaky it is?" "I know, Emma. I think I know 
how shaky it is, if I don't know anything else. I think I 
know that." "Well, he can't get hold of himself—" 

So Joe Martin came, and they talked of old times. Mar- 
tin drew him into memories bucolic and slow, the corn 
growing for the harvest, sleepy brown rivers, like the 
Wabash, how it was for so many of them who had come 
out of the bottom lands when the first growth of giant 
timber still stood in some places. And then Martin told his 
own tales, the way only he could: 

"I never told you that time, Pete, going out to the coast 
on the old Union, and they had the card tables in the par- 
lor car. There I was comfortable with a newspaper and a 
cigar, and perfectly willing to let it go that way, but three 
Texas badmen, real frontier tinhorn gamblers, they 
couldn't let it rest, oh no. They had to make their Chicago 
bunco pay off, and then I had no peace until I got up and 
sat in their game. Just quiet five-card draw, you under- 
stand. Just a simple city game for a simple city boy like 
myself. Oh, my goodness, Emma, I do not like tinhorn 
frontier gamblers who like to act like badmen, but very 
polite after they saw me take out a roll of bills like my 
fist to pay the waiter. Jack-high at a dollar to open and a 
dollar to raise, and they were dealing the deck, but polite- 
like, and just taking ten or fifteen dollars from me now 
and then. So by the time I was losing a hundred, they 
knew all about me, that my name was Steve Hennessy, that 
I was married, two kids, that I just played a little cards, 
now and then, that I had sold all my Chicago property, my 
wife's inheritance, six thousand dollars, and was off to the 
coast to buy a little piece of land and see if we could go it 
again. Well, I'm small and I look the part, gentle and 



quiet, and I figured if they had some decency about a char- 
acter like I described myself to be, I'd leave them alone 
and call it quits and figure an evening at the price of a 
hundred. But no sooner do I open up than they graciously 
give me the opportunity to recoup and push it to five to 
open, five to raise, all the time dealing the deck in a way 
to make a South Side amateur blush with shame. So I drop 
another hundred and tell myself, like in the Bible, I'll 
give them another chance. So I tell them that a loss like 
this— well I never lost so much before, my wife will never 
forgive me, how can I explain?" 

By now, the Governor was leaning back, chuckling to 
himself. He had heard the story before, many years ago, 
but like all good tales, it grew better and more mellow 
with time. It was right for him now, as right as anything 
could be. Emma protested, "Joe, how could you— like the 
Bible? That's blasphemous. You mean Lot?" 

"Maybe I do, Emma. I'm not a church-going man, buc 
I think even a bad man should be tried three times, don't 
you, Pete?" 

"I do," the Governor grinned. 

"But to lie that way— wife, children." 

"My dear Emma, I was creating a character for their 
sympathy. They were bad men. They had no sympathy, 
no love for their own kind. I don't like men like that. I 
don't like men who take from children, and the way I 
played poker I was like a child. So when they refused to 
let a little man escape, but assured me that they would 
double the stakes again, I agreed. Tears in my eyes, but 
what could I do? Anyway, I had nothing but contempt for 
them now. I played a half hour more and lost two hundred 
more, and then I let them suggest a double. I sighed. I re- 
member how I sighed. I said, this is my last chance, gentle- 



men. Why not a hundred to open, a hundred to raise? 
Emma, don't you think that if they had one little bit of 
conscience, one bit of human kindness, they would have 
let me be? No. I win the first hand on two pair, six hun- 
dred dollars. I have almost all my losings, but I am greedy; 
what little man wouldn't be greedy? I lose three hundred 
in the next hand, then win it all back. I've lost my head 
now, and they deal to fit. Tinhorn dealing. They deal me 
four kings pat, the oldest, cheapest dodge known. You see, 
the feller on my left, he has two aces. First card on the 
deck is nothing, second and third are aces. Suppose I stand 
pat, well, this tinhorn draws three with two aces. If I draw 
one, well he still draws aces on three to four of a kind. 
And see how safe it is— suppose I lose my head and draw 
two. Well, he still draws three aces to beat three kings. 
Well, I play the part, and before the draw I push that pot 
to where it holds twelve thousand dollars. Twelve thou- 
sand dollars, and I'm running sweat and trembling the 
way a little man should. Everyone in the car is watching 
now, and that suits me, because even cheap tinhorns can 
be bad men. But still no sympathy on their part. All right, 
I say to myself— up. And there's three thousand more in 
the pot. And then I ask, not for one, not for two cards— 
but for three. Three." 

At that point, Altgeld said, half-choking, "Joe, you're 
lying." Six years ago, when he first heard the story, he had 
said the same thing. 

"So help me! You see, Emma— now I'm due to draw the 
aces, both of them. I have aces high. Gent on my left, he 
just has aces. Well, you could have heard a pin drop when 
I ask for three cards. Three cards, gentlemen, I say. And 
very happy that we're surrounded with rubbernecks. No 
one moves. Three cards, gentlemen, I repeat." 



"That was wicked, Joe," Emma said. 

"Was it wicked? They were bad men, Emma. They had 
no mercy and no sympathy; like coyotes, they were wild 
and mean and on their own. If you don't fight that kind 
their own way, they destroy you, Emma. Ask the Judge." 

He, like others from long back still called him Judge 
now and then. Judge Altgeld, it had a nice sound. "Joe's 
right," he said. 

"Only that kind"— Joe Martin mused— "that kind doesn't 
think twice about force. That kind pulls a gun and knows 
he's going to kill. We don't think that way. That's why 
they always have the advantage." 

"Not always," Altgeld said. "You took the pot, didn't 
you, Joe? Well, not always. That's all I say. Not always/' 


The convention had opened when Buck Hinrichsen came 
to him and said, "Governor, I think you're making a mis- 

"I've made a lot of them, Buck. I wish I had a dollar for 
every one." 

"I'm talking about Richard Bland. Maybe he's the man 
for the job. Maybe if he was up here, he could convince 
everyone that he is. But he won't come to Chicago, and I 
think that's a hell of a note." 

"Do you, Buck?" the Governor said, coolly. 

"Don't blow up at me," Hinrichsen said. "Why won't 
Bland come here?" 

"Because he has some queer notions about democracy. I 
don't say he's right, Buck, and I don't say he's wrong, but 
he thinks that the people, through their delegates, should 



choose the man they want to run for president. It's just as 
simple or complicated as that." 

Hinrichsen grinned. 

"Yes? It sounds like a lot of hogwash, doesn't it?" 

"It does," Hinrichsen said. 

"Buck, did you ever read the Constitution of the United 

"I read it." 

"It's hogwash, isn't it?" 

"In some ways it is. You want me to talk straight, don't 
you? Well, presidents are made; they're made from little 
men. Sometimes, they're made from dirty little men who 
aren't fit to wipe your shoes. I don't have to tell you that. 
My God, Governor, you made this convention, you took 
the party away from Cleveland, you rigged it and en- 
gineered every move, all the way through. Do we have to 
have wool over our own eyes?" 

"You believe that, don't you, Buck?" 

"Sure I believe it. I know it." 

"You're just crazy as hell, Buck, that's all. If you had 
eyes in your tail, you couldn't see less. I didn't do it. Get it 
into your head that I didn't do it. Just so long as you think 
I did it, alone, you're going to be a cheap, two-bit poli- 
tician, like the rest of them. Just a cheap ward-heeler, like 
the rest of them." 

"That's nice. That's nice as hell, Governor." 

"Wait a minute," Altgeld said. "We don't want to fight, 
Buck. I got to fight enough of them without having to 
fight you. Boy, don't you understand— there are currents. 
You feel them, you sense them, you listen to them, and 
then if you ride on the current you can move this way or 
that way. But you can't hold the current back, and no man 
is strong enough to make a current all by himself." 



Hinrichsen was half satisfied, no more than half satis- 
fied. Altgeld told Emma, "Talk to him, won't you. He'll 
listen to you." "Why must it be Bland?" Emma argued. 
He said, "Because at this point, if it's not Bland, it'll be 
Bryan. Oh, my god, Emma, we're making a revolution— 
we're taking up the country the way Tom Jefferson took 
it up, only now it's a hundred times bigger and stronger 
than then, and what in hell were his enemies compared 
to a Rockefeller or a McCormick? And for that Bryan!— 
do you know what he is, Emma, a fool, you understand, a 
god-damned fool!" 

The next day, Illinois caucused in Altgeld's suite. The 
delegation had come to a deadlock on Bland, and Altgeld 
himself had called for the caucus. The Governor was a 
few minutes late; when he arrived, most of the delegation 
was present, and looming among them, grinning, back- 
slapping, pressing moist palms between his two large 
hands, was young William Jennings Bryan, shaking his 
great head of black hair, sounding off with his bell-like 
voice, passing cigars, and talking, talking. Altgeld stood at 
the door, his blue eyes burning with anger. Like a file be- 
ing drawn over metal, his voice cut across Bryan's. 

"Buck," he said, and Hinrichsen came to him. Bryan 
stopped. The silence was empty. Overtones of Bryan's voice 
rocked back and forth. "Out here," Altgeld said. They 
stepped into the passageway, but the flat tone of the Gov- 
ernor's voice penetrated the room. 

"What is he doing here?" Altgeld demanded. 

"He came." 

"Who invited him?" 

"No one. He came. There's no need to be hard on him." 

"Suppose you let me decide that. This is an Illinois 
caucus. Get him out." 



Judge McConnell joined them. "Take it easy, Pete. I 
know how you feel, but take it easy." His voice was a 

"Buck, get him out. This is an Illinois caucus. Get that 
damned fool out of here. Tell him he has no more chance 
of being president than I have, and I wasn't even born 
in this country." 

An hour later, Altgeld put it to the Illinois delegation. 
"Either," he said, "you follow me, or I climb down and let 
anyone else who wants to step in. One way or another. I'm 
not playing for pennies. This is life and death. I told you 
before there wouldn't be any second chances. You want 
to dance around a maypole with Bryan— all right. You 
want to win an election, all right. But from my point of 
view the two don't mix." 

They told him they were with him. They shook his hand 
and assured him that they were with him. But after they 
went and only Sam McConnell was left, he dropped into 
a chair, white and trembling. 

"I'm sick," he told the judge. "I want to crawl away. 
I want to crawl into bed and forget there ever was such a 
thing as a Democrat." 

"You're not that sick, Pete." 

"You mean I'm not dying?" 

"Who'll hold them in line? Hinrichsen is biting at the 
traces. My word, you don't need brains, you don't need 
ability; a golden voice is enough." 


"You're not that sick, Pete." 

"Don't worry. I'll be around. You'd see me in hell, 
wouldn't you, before you'd let me out of this? Well, I'll 
be around." 




The convention was in full swing, and Chicago reacted 
properly to this very essential business of American democ- 
racy. A preacher roared that there were more prostitutes 
in the middle-western metropolis than in all the rest of the 
country put together, and perhaps that was so. The beer 
wagons clattered day and night, and freightloads of Old 
Granddad and Golden Wedding poured in. The police 
had instructions not to arrest delegates unless they actually 
tore up a piece of the town, and there was hardly a night 
without a torchlight parade or a street meeting with free 
beer. The feeling penetrated, for it was more than an 
ordinary convention, and a sense of revolt and pending 
drama reached even as far as packing-house town and Pull- 
man city. The thousands and thousands of workingmen 
picked up their heads and listened. Things were stirring in 
the land, a noise, a ripple; the worst part of the depression 
was gone, and labor had the strength to do a little more 
than exist. A man called Debs spoke about socialism and 
a man called Altgeld spoke about democracy. Coming out 
of the plants, shoulder to shoulder in the packed thou- 
sands, labor had a new feeling of solidarity. At meetings, 
they listened to their leaders asking them to trust the 
little Governor. Among themselves, they still shook their 
heads; but there was the easing of tension that comes with 
an armed truce, or perhaps with the calm before the storm. 
Old union men could not remember when it had been so 
quiet and good as it was now, and they were bending their 
ears to the hope that Altgeld had found the way— a way 
within the framework of their land and yet without vio- 
lence and Gatling guns and death and Pinkertons. The 



peculiar American persuasiveness was taking hold again, 
for here all things were possible. And even in the mansions 
of the rich by the lake, a part of this was shared; for though 
they hated the very guts of the Governor, whom they re- 
ferred to as "that damned man," they felt that another 
crisis had passed, that a great new era of prosperity was in 
the offing, that the mores of their lives, their over-plushed 
homes, their many-faceted ethics, their double and triple 
standards, their gilt and glitter and sense of kingliness were 
insured and strengthened; and they could afford to talk 
about the people now and ask, was not their party more 
surely and certainly the people's party? Had they not 
brought such prosperity here as the world had never known? 
They could unbend. The Democrats had shown their true 
colors, and one could display responsive virtue by writing 
a check for ten or twenty or fifty thousands dollars, or twice 
as much for Mark Hanna, who controlled Republican 
destinies in the east. 

There is no one spirit for a great city, but sometimes 
there is a commanding overtone, and it was like that in 
Chicago when the convention opened. The saloons were as 
full as the shops, and at the huge beer halls, twelve-piece 
bands ground out the new hit tune, "Casey would waltz 
with a strawberry blonde, And the band played on; He'd 
glide 'cross the floor with the girl he adored, And the band 
played on." The new theatre was packed every night, and 
the curious motor cars which had so recently made their 
appearance acted as a prod to the imagination and let it 
roam wildly in the brave new world that was coming. If 
Lucy Parsons still roamed the streets, still set up her little 
stand to sell her husband's book— well, that was a sort of 
civil fixture by now, and even the police were beginning 
to leave her alone, instead of hauling her off into jail again 



and again. And if at nightfall, the vagabonds, the homeless, 
the unemployed— who, somehow, were still numbered in 
the hundreds of thousands— crept here and there, seeking 
a bowl of soup or a place to sleep, well, that too was a part 
of life that one accepted and became conditioned to. 


Richard Bland of Missouri was not a colorful man. At 
this time he was just past his sixtieth year, and those who 
knew him only casually, in deference to his long term of 
service in congress, conceded that he was a reliable man, 
but were not ready to say very much more about him. Part 
of him was the standard congressional cliche, the string 
tie, the frock coat, and the resonant voice; but there was 
more to him than that, a hatred of the great industrial 
combines that had taken over the government, a sympathy 
for the farmer, the forgotten man of the frontier, which 
expressed itself in a tireless battle for free silver coinage, 
and a readiness to believe that this was a new age for 
America and for all the world, an age of monopoly capital- 
ism, an age which required a new party, new men, new 
ideas, and new conrideration of the millions who worked 
with their hands but owned no tools. Early in the battle 
to oust Cleveland and turn the Democratic Party into a 
people's party, he hai joined Altgeld; he had gone down 
the line with Altgeld, with the courage not of an old man 
but a young man, and quietly he had made Missouri one 
of the pivot-forces in the struggle. When they approached 
him about the presidency, he said, "You've been talking 
a lot about the people. Suppose you let them decide whether 
they want me." Would he come to Chicago? "No!" The no 
wa3 very definite. He didn't believe a candidate belonged 



at the convention. Altgeld pleaded, "Richard, look at the 
practical side of the matter. If you want to speak about 
democracy, then talk of the forces. You're one of the forces. 
You have to come to the convention." He said, emphat- 
ically, "No. That's all, my mind is made up." "But you'll 
run," they asked him. He said, "I'll run, all right. If you 
want me." 

To Altgeld, it was incredible that after all the work had 
been done the situation should now be so underestimated. 
The convention whooped it up, flung their hats in the air, 
and talked about patronage as if they were already in the 
White House. It turned Altgeld's stomach. They were cas- 
ual about the fight he had led for sixteen months. Grover 
was out; they were in. They performed snake dances. They 
cheered, Rah, rah, rah, sixteen to one, silver, silver, rah, 
rah, rah. He remarked to McConnell, "And they want to 
run the country." "Have you ever seen the Republicans?" 
McConnell asked him. He shook his head. "Well, just the 
same." But it didn't help that the other party was as in- 
fantile, as shallow as his own. The other party had twenty 
million dollars; his own party had been maneuvered into 
a revolt they did not even comprehend. Taking over a 
government, or holding a Fourth of July celebration— it 
was all one and the same thing. He wished fervently that 
Bland had come up to the city, the more so when Bryan 
cornered him and pleaded: 

"Let me talk, Governor." 

He wanted to remark that he had rarely seen Bryan do 
anything else, but he held onto his temper and answered, 
pleasantly enough, "We got a pretty full agenda, Bill." 

"A short speech." 

"I don't know." 

"My god, Governor, what have you got against me?" 



He answered truthfully, "You want to be president too 
hard, Bill. I want to win this election." 

"But let me talk, please. I would ask you on my knees." 

"You don't have to." 

"Will you deny Nebraska the right to raise her voice? Is 
it for nothing that we hacked a nation out of the prairies, 
fought the Indians, and pledged our lives to the cause of 

He looked at Bryan as if he had never seen him before. 
"Oh, my aunt," he whispered. 

"You'll let me talk, please, Governor?" 

"If there's time, I'll let you talk," Altgeld sighed. 

"I've been working on an address." 

"If there's time." He remembered that Hinrichsen had 
remarked upon going up to Bryan's room and finding him 
there, in front of the bureau mirror, one hand thrust into 
his waistcoat, declaiming. "He can speak," Hinrichsen said. 
Now Altgeld repeated, "If there's time, Bill, you can 
speak." And he told McConnell afterward that the thought 
of all Nebraska standing impotent on her prairies had been 
too much for him. "Let him speak. I don't want it said, 
Sam, that I shut anyone up." 

"I suppose you're right." 

"Do you know that Buck is impressed with him. People 
listen to him talk and a sort of glaze comes over their eyes. 
Something happens to them." 

"I know-" 

Nominations began. Speakers went on for hours, and 
some of the delegates listened and others didn't. Some 
smoked cigars and others caucused in the anterooms. Every 
so often there would be a calculated roar of cheers and 
then a screaming frenzy that ended in a snake-dance, as a 
group of natives attempted to stampede the house and start 



a boom for their favorite son. But other groups of native 
sons would regard this with bored disinterest. Few listened; 
some of the speakers spoke to some of the audience; some 
spoke to the thin air. 

Altgeld sat in the Illinois corner, watching this the way 
a man from Mars might; he appeared bloodless and shriv- 
eled. He kept trying to swallow the astonishing fact that 
this same crowd might make up a government and operate 
this great union of states. 


Finally, William Jennings Bryan spoke. Altgeld watched 
him rise to his feet, walk to the platform, and mount it. 
He faced the crowd, thrust his fingers into his waistcoat, 
and moved his head, ever so slightly. The ebony hair 
rippled. The light caught his ruddy skin, and it glowed. 
After the procession of the middle-aged and the old, the 
whiskered and the bearded and the mustached, the pot- 
bellied politician and the doddering congressional veteran, 
this appeared to be the apostle of youth itself. For a long 
minute, he stood silent on the platform, allowing his per- 
sonality to impress itself, giving those who still did not 
know him a chance to whisper to their neighbors and to 
be answered, "Bryan— Nebraska." His dark brows knit and 
then relaxed. His mouth was stern and then gentle. He 
began to speak with deference and humility, his magnifi- 
cent voice, even on a muted note, penetrating every corner 
of the hall. As he started with the usual, "Mr. Chairman 
and gentlemen of the convention," the noise and chatter 
among the delegates went on uninterrupted, and hardly 
more than a third of them actually listened. But his next 



sentence caught them, and face after face turned to him. 
The voice throbbed and impinged and penetrated: 

"I would be presumptuous, indeed, to present myself 
against the distinguished gentlemen to whom you have 
listened, if this were a mere measuring of abilities; but this 
is not a contest between persons. The humblest in all the 
land, when clad in the armor of a righteous cause, is 
stronger than all the hosts of error. I come to speak to 
you in defense of a cause as holy as the cause of liberty— 
the cause of humanity!" 

The chatter had stopped. They were watching him now, 
and Altgeld had the impression that at least several hun- 
dred delegates had known the content of the speech in 
advance, planned for it, and were ready to act on it. Yet, 
in spite of himself, that magic voice had caught him up: 
inside, his heart sank, as he laid against this mounting 
effect his quiet hope that by speaking sanely and directly 
about Bland and for him, with the aid of a few dozen who 
understood what was at stake, he might turn this shaky 
rebellion into a victory. He was pulled from the rising 
crescendo of Bryan's voice by Sam McConnell who whis- 
pered hoarsely, "Well, you asked for it." 

"He can speak." 

"Nobody denies that. And nobody listens to what he 

"They're listening," Altgeld said. "That's the amazing 
thing, they're listening. Do you hear?" He doubted his 
own ears. A roar of applause went up. Bryan was saying: 

"The man who is employed for wages is as much a 
businessman as his employer. . . . The farmer who goes 
forth in the morning and toils all day— who begins in the 
spring and toils all summer— is as much a businessman as 
the man who goes upon the board of trade and bets upon 



the price of grain. . . . The miners who go down a thou- 
sand feet into the earth, or climb two thousand feet upon 
the cliffs, and bring forth from the hiding places the pre- 
cious metals to be poured into the channels of trade, are 
as much businessmen as the few financial magnates who, 
in a back room, corner the money of the world." 

Altgeld growled, "He's an idiot, do you hear him? And 
they're swallowing it— they're swallowing that incredible 
nonsense. Everyone is a businessman, and therefore we're 
for business and for everyone." 

Darrow had joined them now, spreading his hands and 
shaking his head mutely. Bryan's voice thundered through 
the hall. He had garnered his speech from everywhere, 
books on oration, Patrick Henry, Cicero, Daniel Webster, 
and now he spilled it forth in pounding waves of sound: 

"We do not come as aggressors. Our war is not a war of 
conquest; we are fighting in the defense of our homes, our 
families, and posterity. We have petitioned, and our peti- 
tions have been scorned; we have entreated, and our en- 
treaties have been disregarded; we have begged, and they 
have mocked when our calamity came. We beg no longer; 
we entreat no longer; we petition no more. We defy 

Darrow was listening open-mouthed. When he turned 
to Altgeld, the Governor smiled slightly, and shrugged. 
"It doesn't matter what he says. This is a lesson, Clarence." 

The audience was won; they rode on the waves of 
sound. They shouted applause at the proper intervals; they 
hissed when they were supposed to hiss. They swayed to his 
rhythm. It was like nothing Altgeld had ever seen, and yet 
it was— it was a camp meeting, a revival, the subconsciously 
awaited and hoped-for climax to the hotel room, the 
bawdy houses, the packed saloons and beer halls, the 



drunken rolling in the gutters, the whole astonishing ap- 
paratus with which democratic America nominated her 
democratically elected presidents. The emotion of the hall 
could have been graphed like the steep side of a mountain; 
it rose with the speaker. It burst when he flung wide his 
arms and screamed: 

"Having behind us the producing masses of this nation 
and the world, supported by the commercial interests, the 
laboring interests, and the toilers everywhere, we will an- 
swer their demand for a gold standard by saying to them: 
You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this 
crown of thorns, you shall not crucify mankind upon a 
cross of gold!" 

The hall went wild. Men sprang on their chairs, yelling, 
whistling, clapping. Men danced on the floor, jigged, let 
go with Indian warwhoops. Hats sailed everywhere. Arms 
waved. One or two of the women present fainted, and 
others wept. Men embraced each other and pounded each 
other. The place had become a madhouse, and in it all and 
over it, Bryan stood, calm and smiling. 

Clarence Darrow turned to look at Altgeld. The Gover- 
nor sat as he had been before, his pale face without any 
particular expression. 


Emma noticed that after Bryan's speech, her husband 
seemed less worried, less perturbed; he found time even 
to go for a walk with her along the lakefront. He said, 
"You know, dear, you get to think that something depends 
on you wholly— it doesn't.'* 


This was a holiday. They sat on an old pier; they tossed 



stones into the water. The sun and the wind brought some 
color into his face. Emma, in a simple black skirt and a 
white blouse, dangling a big straw hat, looked like a girl. 
She had the poise and walk of a girl. She took his arm, 
and they were not too different from the hundreds of other 
couples strolling along the lake. They watched the boats 
on the horizon and speculated on what they were and 
where they were bound. 

"If a few hours are like this," Emma said, "what would 
a month be, or two months— or a year?" 

He told her that when this was over, they would go to 

"And if you win, you'll not only be Governor again, but 
with one arm in the White House. Pete, we'll never go 
anywhere. That's all right. I would have been the wife of 
the town grocer, more likely than not. Now I'm Pete Alt- 
geld's wife. I'm not complaining." 

"You should complain." 

"No. But I've done all right, haven't I, Pete? I've 

"We both learned." 

"I'm really a happy woman, Pete, a very happy woman. 
Happier than you are. Because I have what I want." 

"What do you think I want, Emma?" 

"I don't know. Do you remember Parsons, Pete?" 

"I remember." 

"I think— I think you want to believe in something as 
directly and as fully as he did. But you don't, do you, 

"No, I don't," he said. 

It was a fine, rich few hours. He had brought a book of 
Elizabeth Browning with him, and they sat down on a 
bench, and he read her the sonnets, a little embarrassed 



but not too much embarrassed to lose the pleasure of still 
being able to read love poems. 


When the balloting began, Altgeld was uncertain but not 
too uncertain, perturbed but not too perturbed; and sit- 
ting in his corner of the hall, checking off in his notebook 
the support he had reason to expect, the votes he had been 
promised, he thought it not wholly unreasonable that 
Richard Bland should come in on the first ballot. He 
wanted to think that; he was very tired by now, and he 
felt the approaching symptoms of another malarial attack. 
He was tired of the convention; he was sick to his stomach 
of it. The enthusiasm, which had carried him through a 
year and a half of struggle for mastery of the party, had 
waned very considerably. Drawn together like this, the 
political supporters of his party were far from impressive 
and not inspiring— the paunched southern Senators who 
could not talk for five minutes without launching a tirade 
against the damn niggers, the congressmen who, drunk or 
sober, unwound with the same patriotic tirades, the 
pinched-faced office-seekers, the few money men who, 
realizing their exclusiveness in this people's convention, 
tried to edge in and boss the show, the cynical politicians 
who played it in votes, dollars and cents and patronage, 
and gave Altgeld credit for no more than being one of 
them, but somehow sharper, and the smirking newspaper- 
men, who managed to unmask the entire thing with just a 
smile and a whisper— not inspiring was any of this; he 
wanted it to be through and done. 

The first ballot went off fairly smoothly. As Altgeld had 
suspected, Bland ran first with 223 votes, not enough to 



nominate, but certainly an impressive showing. What sur- 
prised him was that Bryan had shown second. He had ex- 
pected something for Bryan, fourth or fifth, one or two 
states at the most to follow Nebraska. No sooner had the 
vote appeared, than Buck Hinrichsen ran up to him and 

"Governor— we're going to split." 

"What in hell do you mean, Buck?" 

"I tell you, the delegation won't hold for Bland. They 
want Bryan." 

"That's nonsense." 

"Is it? We're calling for a caucus." 


"That's right. I feel Bryan's the man." 

"Buck, have you lost your head? You know what I've 
put into this, if the others don't." 

"I'm sorry, Governor. I feel Bryan's the man." 

"Sure you do. What in hell has he promised you? Has he 
promised to make you Secretary of State, of War, of the 
Treasury? Well, why don't you count how many cabinet 
posts there are and how many promises he's handed out 
before you sell him your liver?" 

"I didn't think you'd look at it that way." 

"How did you think I'd look at it? All right— if they 
want a caucus, they can have it." 

But at the caucus, his lethargy departed and he became 
the old Altgeld, slashing, cutting, parrying. He was bril- 
liant, quick, mocking. Did they want to be tight-rope 
walkers— well, he'd stretch a rope across Lake Michigan, 
and they could walk it to their heart's content. Did they 
think Bryan could be elected; well, what had he said? He 
defied them to repeat one sentence from the Cross of Gold 
speech. "Bryan—" very slowly, "My God, we're Democrats, 



do you understand! We have a party, a tradition, we've 
produced some of the greatest men this land has known, 
Jefferson, Jackson— and you tell me Bryan, Bryan. Well, 
we're here to vote for Bland! We're pledged to Bland! We 
don't break our pledges! We sold the people a bill of goods 
—we don't change our merchandise. We don't toss the elec- 
tion to William McKinley because we were spellbound by 
a silver voice." 

He won them. With the second ballot, he could stand 
up and say, evenly and decisively, "Illinois casts forty-eight 
votes for Richard Parks Bland of Missouri." 

Some of the hall cheered, but more were silent, staring 
at the small, bearded man who had mysteriously wrested 
leadership of the party from Cleveland. But then his own 
delegation was at him again; Bryan was gaining. They de- 
manded a caucus once more. 

He granted it. And once more he drove them back, 
cowed them, and retained the right to say, "Illinois casts 
forty-eight votes for Bland of Missouri." 

Now they were at him. It reached a hysterical, feverish 
pitch. From all over the hall, Bryan's supporters crowded 
toward Altgeld, screaming, "No cross of gold! No cross of 
gold!" The place took on all the elements of riot; the 
pounding of the speaker's gavel could no longer be heard. 
Bryan supporters surged over the Governor, tearing at his 
clothes, and were literally thrown back by Altgeld men. 
Big Buck Hinrichsen found himself forcibly defending the 
little Governor. 

But Altgeld sat calmly; he never moved, neither smiled 
nor frowned, but watched the incredible chaos with the 
interested eyes of a scientist who has observed, for the first 
time, a totally new and unexpected phenomenon. When 
they called for caucus again, he shrugged and nodded, and 



the action of filing from the hall acted as a check. At least 
part of the tumult died, enough for them to take the next 
ballot. Silence came as Altgeld led his delegation back to 
its place. He walked slowly; his shuffle was accentuated; 
yet a faint smile showed as he said, "Illinois casts forty- 
eight votes for Bland of Missouri." 

But now, for the first time, the Bryan thing took on ap- 
pearances of a landslide. His vote topped Bland's. His sup- 
porters, screaming with joy, tumbled out of their chairs 
and fell into a snake dance. Round and round the hall it 
twisted, shattering chairs, signs, stands, men roaring with 
laughter as they embraced those in front, men sliding on 
their behinds and giggling hysterically. All control was 
going. Whisky bottles arched through the air and smashed 
against the ceiling, raining fragments of broken glass. Like 
a weird chant, "Cross of gold, cross of gold, cross of gold . . ." 

The Bryan supporters had momentarily forgotten Alt- 
geld, but his own men, men from half a dozen states who had 
worked with him these past eighteen months, crowded up 
to him, pleading, "For god's sake, stand firm! Stand by us!" 
"If Illinois holds, we can break this!" "For the love of 
God, hold!" Schilling had appeared from somewhere, al- 
most magically, pleading, "Hold them, Pete, please." And 
Sam McConnell, voiceless, but his eyes pleading. Yet al- 
ready they were screaming for the caucus. 

This time, as he faced them in the caucus room, Alt- 
geld knew that he was beaten. He knew that far ahead he 
was beaten, and far behind too. It was not merely the fact 
of Bryan; it was more than Bryan and beyond Bryan, the 
whole structure in which he played the roll of his life, the 
structure that made a mad circus of a national nominating 
convention. He did not need Buck Hinrichsen's whisper: 

"For God's sake, Governor, you're still running the 



party. But hold off now and you're not running anything, 
not anything." He did not need the set faces to tell him 
that he was beaten; he knew. He knew better than any of 
them how well he was beaten, how completely. 

He nodded. "All right," he said. 

They filed back. For the first time since it began, there 
was a degree of quiet in the convention hall. State after 
state was called and reported. Illinois was called. The Gov- 
ernor of Illinois rose and said, "Illinois casts forty-eight 
votes for William Jennings Bryan of Nebraska." 

He sat down, felt a hand grip his shoulder, saw Sam Mc- 
Connell, and beside him Schilling and Martin. He was 
able to smile at them, and then he turned away to see the 
convention go finally and completely mad as William Jen- 
nings Bryan was nominated for President of the United 
States by the Democratic Party. 


Part Five 


first Monday in November is a curious day. Some things 
are American, others imported, others a blend. It is a coun- 
try of that sort. Seek for a thing deep in the twisted roots of 
some old first-growth oak, and you will find that a part of 
Spain crept in long, long ago, or a part of Bohemia, or a 
part of Poland, or Germany, or Sweden, for sometimes that 
kind of thing rooted as deeply and securely in the soil here 
as the ancient oak itself. But some things are American; 
not just an election day, or any election day, but a tradi- 
tional and sacrosanct raising of the ego, an incredible bow 
to the individual in a world that has stamped on the in- 
dividual and ground him down into the earth, and proved 
to him that, aside from the fact that he might be president 
or a millionaire, he should not think for himself, act for 
himself, defy either custom or prejudice or stupidity, or 
assert himself in any fashion as a singular product of God's 
handiwork. But on election day all this sloughs away, and 
nakedly and unashamedly he comes forth as a man. He 
holds destiny in the subtle joints of his fingers, and though 
year after year he is faced, on his ballot, with Tweedledum 
and Tweedledee, back of his mind, back in that unused 



space that only hopes and yearns, there is the thought that 
this time it will be different. Perhaps the hope is backed 
by a little more than faith, for the citizens sees his land, 
sometimes, through the patriotic mud that is so constantly 
flung in his eyes; he knows, somehow, what is the flesh and 
the blood of the land, even though the words to express it 
have been stolen from him and perverted; and on election 
day, to at least some of him, comes the thought that he— 
by himself— has the power in his worn fingers to change 
everything, to throw out the barons, the thieves, bandits, 
the cheap politicians, the mealy-mouthed double-talkers. 
That he doesn't is a weary disappointment. He isn't sure, 
but few men are sure when they are alone, and in the 
voting booth he stands alone. He weighs truth and false- 
hood, and it is like trying to untangle a ball of yarn after a 
cat has had a day with it; he tries to find his way through 
the millions that have been poured down the drain of cam- 
paign—and in the end he votes without conviction. Con- 
viction is only in the day itself, the first Tuesday after the 
first Monday, that it might be, sometime. 


For Tuesday, and a while before and a while after, Emma 
engaged a suite of rooms at the Palmer House. She would 
have preferred Springfield; she wanted the sense of security 
that Springfield could give her, for the past several months 
had been like a lifetime, and when she looked at her hus- 
band now she felt that perhaps it was more than that, the 
ending of a life. But when she broached it to him, he 
shrugged and said: 

"I would want it as much as you, Emma, but the best we 
can do is to go there as soon as it is over. I have to be in 



Chicago; they'll want to see me, and all of them can't see 
me if I'm in Springfield." 

"Haven't they seen you enough, Pete?" 

"Apparently not." It was like that. With Bryan nomi- 
nated, sitting in his chair in that insane convention hall, it 
had occurred to him that perhaps he had lost as much as 
Bryan had won. But a moment later, Jones, the new na- 
tional committee head, pushed his way through the mob 
up to his chair and asked, bewilderedly, "Governor, what 
do we do?" "Do? You have Bryan." "For god's sake, Gov- 
ernor, you're not going to walk out on us?" Altgeld began 
to laugh; he reached out and grabbed Jones' arm, laugh- 
ing hugely. "When in hell have I walked out on any- 
thing?" he managed to say. Jones asked, "You'll see Bryan?" 
"I'll see him. Don't be a fool.'* It was like that. 

"Apparently not," Altgeld said again. "A little more, 
another few days, Emma." 

"All right." She gave in. One learned, in time, that there 
was no purpose in arguing with him. At one of his meet- 
ings, in the audience, she had sat next to two women who 
discussed him aloofly and with objective curiosity. Over- 
hearing, she could not bring herself to stop them or to 
move away. One said, "Look at him." "He's dying, you 
know," the other said. "You know what he's dying from?" 
"I've heard—" "Well, you can tell from the way he walks, 
there's no doubt. Just think what his wife feels." "I feel 
sorry for her. I don't feel sorry for him." 

Emma wasn't sorry for herself. Today, on election morn- 
ing, she considered that she would not change places with 
any woman in the world. She was Pete Altgeld's wife, and 
she had been with Pete Altgeld these four months past 
now, watched him, worked with him. It was to her that he 
said, late one night, "Emma, I'm beginning to learn some- 



thing. I'm beginning to learn that a person grows with 
struggle— maybe no other way." Now she had only to think 
of the Emma Ford that she had been once to realize the 
fullest implications of that. 

Today, she was here in the suite in the Palmer House, 
and it was her day as well as her husband's; she was more 
afraid than he, and yet more certain than he. When he was 
out voting and Hinrichsen called, she could say: 

"Come up, Buck. Of course." 

"He's not angry?" 

"Why? Why should he be angry? You don't know Pete." 

"I thought he might have figured it as a double cross." 


"All right." 

"Buck, did anyone work harder than he trying to elect 
Bryan? If he doesn't get elected— Pete, I mean— it will only 
be because he used all he had for Bryan." 

"I know. I don't know why." 

"You should. Don't be a fool. Come up and talk to 

It began as that kind of a day. Some reporters came, and 
she told them to return later. She wanted to be sedate and 
calm today, which was important, if ever it was important 
for her to have been that way. Waiting for her husband, she 
looked over the day's papers, the screaming, last-minute 
attacks on her husband, the somber editorials, inform- 
ing the public that if Bryan were elected, a silent dictator 
would enter the White House, John Peter Altgeld, and the 
republic would come to an end. An end and a finish; 
anarchy, socialism, and ruin. 

She thought of two times since the convention, when her 
husband had seen Bryan. 




She had not been there the first time. It had been after the 
convention, directly after, and Pete had told her of it, how 
Bryan came up, a little afraid, a good deal abashed, but 
still glowing and walking on clouds: 


"Hullo, Bill," Altgeld had said. "Congratulations." 

"Well— well, it came out that way. I guess that's all, it 
just came out that way." 

"It just happened," Altgeld grinned, telling Emma how 
Bryan had stood there, more like a boy than ever, more 
like an overgrown, handsome farm boy, realizing only by 
slow degrees what had happened, that he was the party 
candidate for president of the United States, and wanting 
desperately to ask Altgeld a question he couldn't frame, 
"Are you going to be with me? For me or against me? Be- 
cause I did this; I never believed I could do it, but I did 

"What do you think, Governor?" he managed to say. 

"I think it's going to be hard. Bill, I think it's going to 
be hard as hell." 

And Bryan nodded, smiling a little foolishly. That was 
the way her husband had told it to her. He had a way of 
leaving things out. He came back from the convention 
with the blood drained from him, but he could neverthe- 
less laugh and say, "Do you know, I'm learning, Emma. 
And in the process, the edges are rubbed off. There are a 
lot of edges to be rubbed off, Emma, and I suppose that 
eventually, I'll smooth out." 

She was with him the second time he saw Bryan. The 
simple disobedience of his body, which refused any longer 

2 49 


to obey him, allowed for a few weeks' rest before the final 
phase of the campaign set in. Emma suggested Colorado 
Springs, and he agreed with the proposal, albeit somewhat 
reluctantly. But once on the train and in their compart- 
ment, he collapsed; it was as if the springs and the hinges 
and the wires had melted away, and there was no strength 
left to do anything but lie in a chair. Emma read to him, 
tended him, and sat and talked with him. They talked for 
hours. All of his groping for a perspective was being chan- 
neled now, and after the nomination of Bryan and his own 
physical letdown, the pieces, peculiarly, fitted better. He 
was able to arrange himself in the scheme of things. Quite 
confidently, he said to his wife: 

"When this campaign is over, I think I'll know what to 
do. I think it will be very clear." 

He didn't talk about victory or defeat. The campaign 
was a stage; it would be over, and then there would be 
another stage. It was there that he told her, for the first 
time, of going to the funeral so long ago, back in '87, and 
how he had stood there in the cold winter morning, watch- 
ing the endless column of workingmen go by. He said: 

"If I had spoken to any one of them, Emma, it would 
have dissolved; but to see them like that, all together, one 
expression on ten thousand faces, well, it meant some- 
thing. I mean, in their relation to me, in mine to them. 
But when I want to put my hand on what it meant— well, 
I stop short. I always stop short. But after this campaign—" 

At Lincoln, Nebraska, the train laid over for two hours. 
Bryan was waiting there, and hardly had the train stopped 
when he was knocking at the door of the compartment. 

"Governor, how are you feeling?" he demanded, speak- 
ing words that were rehearsed, swallowing over them, and 
striding in with both his hands extended to Altgeld. The 



Governor sat in a chair, his legs wrapped in a robe, and 
Bryan was not unfamiliar with the thin smile that greeted 

"I'm fine, Bill. How are you?" 

"Like an ox," Bryan answered, grinning at Emma. "The 
last thing in the world to trouble me is my health. But I 
heard you were sick; I worried." 

"Bill, sit down and stop panting. You knew damn well a 
year ago that I was sick. Emma, get him something to 
drink— get him a lemonade, we're in Nebraska." Emma 
called the porter; Bryan eased his big bulk into a chair, 
rose again with Emma. "Sit down, sit down," Altgeld said. 
Bryan smiled sheepishly. The rehearsed lines were finished, 
and he sat there with his hands on his knees, staring at the 
Governor. Altgeld said, "Well, how does it feel to be the 

Bryan shook his head. "I don't know— it's a feeling I 
can't get used to." The bars were down; he started to 
speak, swallowed, and then said, "Governor, I swear— I 
never thought—" 

"You didn't. You sure as hell never thought so! But you 
couldn't stop. You rode it like a kid riding a washtub 
down a snow slide. Wait a minute— I'm not angry. Just 
forget that. You're the candidate and only one thing mat- 
ters, that next year you should move into the White 
House. That's all that matters, Bill. Understand that." 

Bryan moved between anger and withdrawal; he hung 
there for one long moment, and then Altgeld thrust out 
his hand and said, "This is for what's gone, Bill." 

They shook hands, and Bryan was smiling again. The 
lemonade came, and he sat there sipping it. Altgeld watched 
him, studying him at this close range, as he told Emma 
afterwards, wondering how he could relax him and turn 



out what was inside, considering that there was something 
inside. Emma began to talk to him, asking about his family, 
about the life here in Nebraska. Young as he was, he 
showed Washington conditioning; it was difficult for him 
to state a thing as a matter of fact rather than as a procla- 
mation. And he wanted Altgeld to speak. Able to contain 
himself no longer, he asked bluntly: 

"Governor, what are our chances?" 

"When? Now, tomorrow, or on election day?" 

"On election day, of course." 

"Well, I don't know," Altgeld said. "It's a long time to 
election day, isn't it?" 

"But you could guess, estimate." 

"I don't guess," Altgeld smiled. "I don't guess, Bill. 
When you know certain things, you can add them up. 
Sometimes you know some things and there are other 
things that you don't know. Is that what you mean by 
guessing? You never know all the things, not even after the 
votes are counted. Right now, how much do we know?" 

"We know that McKinley's a bag of clothes, and that 
Mark Hanna's got him dancing on strings. We know that 
the people are pretty well fed up with the way Wall Street 
runs the country." 

"Do we?" 

"We know that the people want free silver coinage." 

Altgeld's voice dropped; his voice had a tendency to 
grind and rasp and hammer; when he spoke softly, he could 
eliminate this. He wanted to eliminate it now; he wanted 
nothing to stand between him and William Jennings 
Bryan. In the normal course of things, it was difficult 
enough to talk to Bryan, but now Bryan was in the saddle; 
he came to Altgeld because Altgeld still led the party, but 
he couldn't forget that he was in the saddle in spite of the 



Governor of Illinois and not because of him. Now Altgeld 


"Bill, we talk a lot about the people— I do, you do, and 
if I had a dollar for every time they mention the people in 
that esteemed congress of ours, I'd be a very rich man. But 
what are the people? Do they have leaders? Can they talk 
in one voice? Can they even go into the polls and vote? 
Some can, but enough of them can't to let us worry about 
it. This isn't the first presidential election, and every presi- 
dent, even such incredible buffoons as Rutherford B. 
Hayes, have been elected by a part of the people. We're 
going to tell the people something, but Mark Hanna and 
the Republican Party are going to tell them something 
else. How are the people going to know what's right?" 

"Because we stand for what's right." 

"My word, Bill, that's not enough. Maybe we do, maybe 
we don't. But how do we get across to the people what we 
stand for? For every newspaper that's for us, there are 
twenty against us. We've got four hundred thousand in the 
campaign chest— maybe we stand to get a few hundred 
thousand more. The Republicans have six million already 
—some say ten million— and stand to get millions more. 
That never happened before. That much money was never 
collected before in the history of this country to be spent 
on a presidential campaign. Ten million dollars— why, 
there was a time when that would run our government for 
a year, and now it's being poured down the drain to elect 
William McKinley president. Well, there's a reason for 
that; things go together; they're connected, Bill, and we 
have to understand just how they're connected, so we can 
know how to fight them." 

"What things?" Bryan asked. "The Republicans have al- 



ways had money. We knew that— we're a people's party, 
not a Wall Street party." 

"That's right, we are— sure. But still, there are some 
things. Take this agitation for war with Spain—" 

"I'm for Cuban independence!" 

"And I am too. But there's more to it than that. On the 
one hand, we throttle the independence movement in 
Cuba; we cut off supplies, arms. We let them starve. On 
the other hand, we move toward war with Spain. That's an 
indication of something else. Monopoly capitalism in 
America has become a giant, a bloody, ruthless giant. 
That's where the ten million dollars comes from. And 
they're going to start spreading, that's what this Cuban 
thing amounts to. America isn't big enough any more— 
the world is the next step. You have to see that coming, 
Bill, and then you'll see what we're up against in this cam- 
paign. It's not only free silver, government by injunction, 
the rights of farmers and workers and small businessmen; 
it's that, but it's something else. It's the first real bid by 
our side to stem this thing that has grown up in our own 
lifetimes, this thing that's like nothing else the world ever 
knew. And they know that— and because they know it, 
they're going to fight us with no holds barred. Inside of 
that frame, you've got to talk to the people, Bill, and there's 
only one way we can talk to them." 

"I don't wholly agree," Bryan said. He was not a con- 
stant listener, and Altgeld wondered whether he had heard 
all he said. "It's going to be a hard fight, but the people 
are with us. No one likes monopoly, no one likes the trusts. 
We'll take our case to the people." 

"Sure, we'll take it to them. But with integrity. That's an 
old-fashioned word, but it works. We can't equivocate, we 
can't compromise—" 



They were words Bryan liked. He nodded savagely. 
Altgeld sighed and said, "We must stand on our platform, 
Bill. My god, we must stand there firm as all hell, just firm 
as all hell." But afterward, he told Emma, "How much of 
it meant anything, and how much of it went in and out? 
He's all right, but this is too big for him. Maybe it's too 
big for anyone." 


Emma was alone when Buck Hinrichsen came up, some- 
what sheepishly, but Emma said, "Anyway, you felt that 
you had to see him today, and that's good, isn't it?" 

"I think so." 

"Shall I order some breakfast for you, coffee anyway?" 

"Nothing, nothing, thanks. How is he feeling, Emma?" 
Hinrichsen was dapperly dressed, fawn gloves, fawn spats, 
a large single-pearl tiepin, tight-fitting black coat, and a 
black bowler hat which he mechanically dusted with the 
edge of his gloves. He looked and acted the part of a routine 
middle-western politician, unimaginative, shrewd, calcu- 
lating, a little better than average scavenger in the offal- 
heap of spoil; but with him, as with so many others, a re- 
lationship with Altgeld had induced a qualitative change. 
He became something more than he was; he had found a 
direction and he groped along it. His switch from Bland to 
Bryan had not altered his belief that there was nothing in 
America like Altgeld. 

Emma replied, "I don't know." 

That could be; he understood that. 

"You think you know Pete, but then you don't know 
him. I'm married to him, and I don't know him. But I 
learned about strength and I learned about struggle, Buck. 



You know, they crucified him; they nailed him up, and 
they put nails into every part of him. But it wasn't enough." 

"I know." 

"Why did they have to do it? Every paper in the coun- 
try—until there isn't a little child anywhere who won't 
dream of that evil face, the popping eyes, the leer; that's 
the way they've painted him. No man ever was treated that 
way before. Buck, what's happening to this land of ours?" 

"That's politics, Emma." 

"It's more than politics, and you know it. What did he 
do that they hate him so? Because he pardoned three men 
who were innocent? Because he spoke up for labor?" 

Hinrichsen nodded. 

"Did you see the cartoon in Harper's Weekly?" 

Hinrichsen nodded again. He had seen the cartoon, Alt- 
geld cloaked like a devil, the face contorted diabolically, 
the flames of hell rising from a smoking capital, and in his 
hands a shredded Constitution. Over his shoulder leered 
the insane face of Guiteau, Garfield's assassin, drawn to 
parody Altgeld, and a skeleton hand reached forward, hold- 
ing a revolver. The caption beneath had read, "Guiteau 
was a power in Washington for one day. Shall Altgeld be a 
power there for four years?" No one who had seen it would 
ever forget it. 

"Is that politics?" Emma asked. "Is it politics when you 
see those pictures every time you open a paper? I won't ask 
you if you think we can win, Buck; I won't insult your in- 
telligence that way. They own this free country of ours. 
They own the press; they own the pulpit; they even own 
the food that comes from the earth. Do you see how much 
I've learned? Only, sometimes I wish I never knew any of 
it. Sometimes I wish I had been Emma Ford, quietly, 
stupidly, but maybe more happily. You ask how Pete is— 

2 j 6 


when we went across the state and he spoke from the train, 
well, each time after he spoke he had only enough strength 
to crawl back into bed, and each time I thought he was 
dying. Do you know how pleasant that can be, Buck?" 

Again, Hinrichsen nodded, and now Emma was over- 
come with remorse. "But you don't have to listen to all 
this. I'm insufferable. Can't I tell you something nice? I 
think that this time, when this is over, we'll tour the Con- 
tinent. That's something I've always wanted— to get away 
from this and see all those wonderful civilizations, Italy 
and Paris and England. Do you know, we'd be presented to 
Queen Victoria— Pete says so and calls her an evil old bitch 
in the same breath. You see, my language has improved 
too; it would in such circumstances. . . ." 

They talked on, and Emma relaxed. Hinrichsen told a 
story very well. His own anger could be biting and con- 
temptuous, as when he told about hearing what he de- 
scribed as "... a dirty, miserable character called Theo- 
dore Roosevelt . . ." speak at the Coliseum just a few 
weeks before. Then, speaking to the Republican College 
League, Roosevelt had screamed: "Mr. Altgeld is a much 
more dangerous man than Bryan. He is much slyer, much 
more intelligent, much less silly, much more free from all 
the restraints of public morality. The one is unscrupulous 
from vanity, the other from calculation, and would con- 
nive at wholesale murder and would justify it by elaborate 
and cunning sophistry for reasons known only to his own 
tortuous soul. For America to put men like this in control 
of her destiny would be such a dishonor as it is scarcely 
bearable to think of. Mr. Altgeld condones and encourages 
the most infamous of murders and denounces the Federal 
government and the Supreme Court for interfering to put 
a stop to the bloody lawlessness which results in worse than 

2 5 y 


murder. Both of them would substitute for the govern- 
ment of Washington and Lincoln, for the system of orderly 
liberty which we inherit from our forefathers and which 
we desire to bequeath to our sons, a red welter of lawless- 
ness as vicious as the Paris commune itself. ..." And so 
forth and so on. "Well," Hinrichsen said, "I got to Mr. 
Roosevelt afterward and I asked him, Have you ever met 
Altgeld? Oh, no, he said, oh, no, never. Of course, that was 
after he had satisfied himself about my credentials. They 
were Teddying him to death, our Chicago big boys, Teddy 
this and Teddy that, and there was something about young 
Theodore very much like a fat little teddy bear, believe 
me, Emma. A very estimable young gentleman, a damn 
highbrow snob— forgive the language, Emma— snotnose, I 
don't know of any other way to describe him, but estima- 
ble, distinctly estimable, and didn't want to talk to me or 
answer any questions until he had really ascertained that I 
was Secretary of State and not just some poor old bum who 
had pushed my way into his august presence. Then— oh, 
no, he had never met Mr. Altgeld, and wouldn't, of course. 
By god, he said, I should have to fight him if I did. How 
can I meet a man socially whom I may have to face with 
bared sword on the barricades?— So help me god, Emma, 
those were his very words! Can you imagine? But this 
young fellow is a card, Emma, someone we're going to hear 
from. It's not just that he's an idiot or a political climber; 
he's some weird combination of a moron and a Jeff Davis, 
and I'll be damned if I can figure it out." 

Hinrichsen paused, then spread his hands wide. "But I 
learned something. It made me see where I was wrong 
with Bryan, so dead-wrong. Bryan is like setting up pins in 
an alley, setting them up for no other reason than that 
they should be knocked down. That's why I'm here. I 



want to apologize to the Governor. I want to shake his 

"You don't have to apologize, Buck." 

"Let me be the judge of that, Emma. When I make a 
mistake, I make them. That's an old story. You hear him, 
and then you go away, and you say, what a wonderful 
speaker he is, and then you vote for McKinley. And Mark 
Hanna just lets Bryan talk. But tell me, were you in New 
York with Pete?" 

"Yes. It was one of the good things. He walked into 
their own stronghold, and he was better than they were, 
better than any of them. Even their newspapers had to 
admit that Cooper Union was packed, and there were ten 
thousand more in the streets who couldn't get in, and 
workingmen— wherever Pete spoke, it was the workingmen 
who came to hear him. I never saw that before at political 
meetings. And they listen to what he has to say—" 

Hinrichsen watched her and listened to her. He had 
been part of the same process; he had reacted to Altgeld; 
he had become something else, and so had she. He was lis- 
tening to her when the Governor returned. Hinrichsen 
held out his hand and the Governor took it. There didn't 
have to be any explanations. But it seemed to Hinrichsen 
that he had never known what a small man Altgeld was, 
how frail; of the solid, earthlike strength of four years past, 
there was left now only the bright, searching eyes and a 
slow smile that let you into him, that invited you. 

"Hello, Buck," he said. "Have you come to bring me 
felicitations or condolences?" 

Hinrichsen answered, seriously, "I came to see you." 

"Thanks." Then, after a moment, "A good line at the 

"How does it look?" 



"Why, I don't know, Buck. What do you think? You've 
got a politician's nose. What kind of a smell is in the air 

"I think that even if Bryan loses, you'll still be Governor 
of Illinois." 

"If Bryan loses, I lose too. Let's face it, Buck, the ticket 
isn't going to win here and lose the rest of the country. 
Well, that suits me. Emma will tell you— it suits me just 
fine. I've had enough, Buck. If I'm licked today, I'm 
licked. My ears are pinned back, and I'll leave them right 
there. This is a dirty, rotten game we're in, and no matter 
how you fight it, it's still dirty. I want to wash my hands of 
it. I want to pay off my debts and go away. My word, Buck, 
I've never been out of this country, if you don't count the 
few months when I was on my way here. I want to see 
things; I want to relax." 

"We've still got a chance." 

"What kind of a chance, Buck? I saw Bathhouse John. 
He knows. He's got a scent like a hound dog. You know 
what he said, he said this is just what comes of trying to 
mix politics and good government. And, by God, he's not 
so wrong." 

"I still think we got a chance." 

"So do I. But not a hell of a big one/' 

For a short while after Hinrichsen left, they were alone, 
and Altgeld went into the bedroom to lie down. Emma 
had drawn the shades; it was dark and warm and com- 
fortable, and stretched out there, he was able to let his 
thoughts wander without any special attempt at cohesion. 
Vagrant thoughts, old ones and new ones. In his own 



mind, he felt that the election was lost, and as one does, 
he thought of the mistakes they had made, how they could 
have done things differently. If only Bryan had stood fast! 
If only he had answered charges with counter-charges! If 
only he had fought! But he didn't know how to fight; 
accused of socialism, he had denied it; accused of being 
pro-labor, he had denied it; accused of being against the 
reactionary supreme court, he had denied that too; he 
denied being anti-trust, anti-business, anti-labor, and in 
the end he was nothing but a golden voice that talked on 
and on of free silver. Well, that was the way, and now it 
was over. His own gubernatorial campaign had lagged a 
bad second, and he found himself accepting, very calmly, 
the fact of his personal defeat. He had come into that 
frame of mind slowly, and he wondered how he would 
react to the one chance in ten of victory— to go back to 
Springfield for four more long and trying years. He had 
pleaded with Sam McConnell to accept the gubernatorial 
nomination, but McConnell knew better. But McConnell 
wouldn't have been any more successful. If he, Pete Alt- 
geld, only knew why— why would the people not rally to a 
concept of decency and honesty— if it was that? If there were 
men of good will and firm purpose, the system had to 
work; it had worked in the past; there were other changes, 
and somehow the country went on and became firmer and 
stronger. It had to happen now. Certain men today were 
richer, more powerful than any who had lived in the past, 
and it was only natural that they should buy their way into 
the government. But was it their government— was it their 
country, body and soul? He had a quick, frightened vision 
of Rockefeller, Morgan, Pullman and the rest of them— 
laughing, laughing uproariously at the antics of the mid- 
dle-country bumpkins, of the naive followers of Abe Lin- 

26 1 


coin and Andrew Jackson, a pell-mell rabble that pre- 
sumed to take over this union of states. Ten million 
dollars sloshing in the middle of a barrel, and a memory 
of Banker Walsh, who held some notes of his, saying to 
him, "This party of yours is a phase, Altgeld. When you're 
ready to talk sense, let us know. You don't run a political 
campaign on a few hundred thousand, and there's enough 
money for all, I assure you. Make things easy for yourself; 
don't worry about those notes. The Republican Party is 
only too glad to see money go to the Democrats, in reason- 
able amounts, of course, but they have to be assured that 
you stand for the same things we do. You're laboring un- 
der a misconception of democracy, Altgeld; a democratic 
election is a contest between individuals, but for the health 
of this country, both parties must have certain understand- 
ings with business. . . ." 

He heard voices outside and sat up, kneading his eyes 
with his fists. It was better not to think too much today. 
He heard small voices, and when he went outside, Emma's 
friend, May Wilson, was there, with her two little girls, 
one five, one seven. 

May Wilson said, "I thought that here it would be like 
a madhouse today.'* 

"It will be, it's still too early." 

"The reporters were here this morning, and we got rid 
of them," Emma said. "But they'll be back. How do you 
feel, Pete?" 

"I feel good," he smiled. 

In a little while, he was sitting on the floor with the two 
small girls. They were fascinated by his beard. "Daddy has 
a mustache but no beard. You got a nice beard. You got a 
beautiful beard." "I never thought of it as being very 
beautiful, but I suppose it is a nice beard." "Very nice, 



very, very nice." That was the younger one; the older one 
didn't think it was polite to discuss personalities, and told 
her sister so. She said, "Do you know stories. Could you 
tell us a story?" So he told them the tale of the princess 
who lived on a glass hill, and how many horses and brave 
young men tried to ride up that slope. But it was the end 
of peace for that day. 


Joe martin came after the two children had gone; he came 
up straight from the South Side, burning. "Strongarm 
methods," he said. "They got Pinkertons covering the 
polls. It isn't enough that they had a rumor going around 
about a blacklist, they're out there writing down names, or 
pretending to. They're intimidating anyone whose looks 
they don't like; anyone in old clothes, off the line." 
"John said Hennessy would be there." 
"I spoke to John. He says, do you want a riot?" 
"I want a riot! You're god-damned right I want a riot! 
You get Hennessy there and instruct him to vote everyone, 
everyone. And if he needs men, tell John to put a hundred 
or two hundred on the spot. They're testing it early, and 
it's not going to work." 

"The Pinkertons are armed." 

"Tell him to arm our men— wait a minute!" Martin was 
on his way to the phone. "Get hold of Buck Hinrichsen— 
he may be at the Sherman House. I'm going to call out the 
militia if necessary— I'll put this whole damn state under 
martial law." 

In a little while, he was on the phone to Hinrichsen. 
Two reporters from the Inter-Ocean and one from the 
Tribune came in. Emma pressed cigars and drinks on 



them. An artist from the News appeared and pleaded, could 
he draw the Governor? Just a single sketch? "All right," 
Altgeld said, "all right." Sam McConnell sauntered through 
the door and stood there, grinning. Altgeld dropped into 
a chair. The reporters began to hammer away, joined now 
by a telegraph correspondent of the New York Herald. 

"Would you say that you are confident, Governor?" 

"Of course, I'm confident." 

"They say that in New York Mark Hanna is taking all 
money, six to one, on a McKinley landslide. What do you 
think of that?" 

"What do I think of that? Why, gentlemen, if I had a 
ten-million-dollar slush fund, I'd be in the betting business 
too. And since it's Morgan's money, why, gentlemen, what 
does Hanna stand to lose?" 

"Will you comment on the bad feeling between you and 
Mark Hanna, Governor?" 

"Bad feeling? I wouldn't call it that. You know, gentle- 
men, I've worked with a lot of political bosses and I've 
fought some of them too. They're like other folks. Some- 
times, they're very decent. Sometimes, they're thorough- 
going scoundrels. I'll leave it to you to decide where Mark 
Hanna belongs." 

A late arrival, the correspondent of Harper's Weekly, 
asked caustically, "Do you believe that Mark Hanna would 
be as much of a power in the White House if McKinley 
wins as you will be if Bryan wins?" 

"If Bryan wins, young man, I intend to be the Governor 
of Illinois, no more, no less." 

"Governor, Hanna is charging you directly with being 
an anarchist and a socialist. Will you comment?" 

"Well, being neither, I'm not too well learned on the 



subject. I'm not sure one could be both of them at the 
same time— you know, they charge me with being a com- 
munist too— and maybe I'm all three, if you consider that 
a man who put up some of the finest office buildings in 
Chicago is that." 

"Do you approve of socialism, Governor?" 

"I disapprove of government by the trusts, by injunc- 
tion, by terror and murder. Only my enemies raise the 
question of socialism in this election. Read through our 
party's platform, gentlemen, and see whether you find the 
word socialism there." 

"Governor, is it true that there are differences between 
you and Bryan?" 

"Young man, are you married?" 

The reporter nodded. 

"And are there no differences between you and your 
wife? Well, a party's like a family." 

He took them like that, parrying, stroking, cajoling, and 
sometimes attacking savagely, for the next half hour. More 
reporters came in and out. The artist from the News fin- 
ished his sketch. Schilling entered and whispered to McCon- 
nell, who glanced at Altgeld. The Governor nodded. 

"All right, gentlemen," McConnell said. "This is elec- 
tion day, you know." 

They filed out. Martin was still inside, hanging over the 
telephone. Clarence Darrow entered, followed by a waiter 
who pushed a table of cold meats, hot soup and beer. No 
one spoke until the waiter had gone, except Emma, who, 
filling plates, ladling soup into cups, said, "Please eat. This 
is going to be one of those days. So you might as well eat." 

Schilling shook his head sadly, so sadly that Altgeld 
laughed to see his face. McConnell said, "I'm glad some- 



one can laugh. George has a beauty, oh, a genuine beauty." 

"What is it?" Altgeld demanded. "It gets to a point 
where it can't be worse. What is it now?" 

"Tell him, George." 

Schilling sipped at his soup and watched Altgeld. He 
began apologetically. "I got a message from Debs that he 
wanted to see me. Gene Debs, you remember?" 

"I remember." 

"It's a very simple thing, and they did it very quietly. 
Debs began to get word of it last night, and I've been 
checking this morning. I checked New York, Cleveland, 
San Francisco, and St. Louis. Debs had word from Pitts- 
burgh and from Philadelphia and from Portland. Then 
three cities in upstate New York. Now, today, Newark in 
New Jersey. So that makes it almost all over, doesn't it? 
From that you would—" 

"What the devil are you talking about, George?" Alt- 
geld demanded. 

"They closed the factories early. I thought you heard. 
Sometimes an hour early, sometimes two hours, in some 
places they only worked half a day. I'm not exaggerating. 
Hundreds of shops were closed down. In some places, they 
were frank, just as open about it as they could be. They 
put up signs— "If Bryan is elected, this plant will remain 
closed." In other places, they were more quiet. So they did 
it by passing around the word 'Bryan is elected and you 
don't have to come back. The shop stays closed.' Maybe 
not those exact words, but always the implication was the 

"It's a bluff," Darrow said. "It's just a damn bluff." 

"It's a beauty," McConnell sighed. "In all my life, I 
never heard of one like that. It's a beauty, all right." 

"Of course, it's a bluff," Altgeld agreed. "Suppose you 



try to explain to a million workers that it's just a bluff. 
George, do you think it was coordinated?" 

"Can there be any doubt? It's not only coordinated, it is 
Mark Hanna. Pete, that's a smart fellow, that's maybe the 
most dangerous man in America." 

"I suppose it is coordinated. What were those cities, 
New York, Pittsburgh, San Francisco—?" 

Schilling went through the rest, numbering them off 
carefully on his fingers. McConnell pushed away his plate. 
"I've got no appetite," he said. 

"Is it legal?" Darrow asked. 

"If McKinley wins, it's damn well going to be legal. I 
don't know. If we could prove conspiracy— no, no, we'd 
never be able to prove it. If a man closes down his plant, 
he's within the law, isn't he? That's what we recognize, 
isn't it? The right of one man to dictate the fate of a plant 
that produces more than the whole country did a hundred 
years ago. If he closes it down and fifty thousand men are 
out of work, well, that's his business. Who's going to chal- 
lenge it?" 

"But it's the dirtiest trick that's ever been pulled in any 

"The smartest, too," McConnell nodded. 

"What did Debs say?" Altgeld asked. 

"He's been up all night, telegraphing, sending out men, 
trying to work through the unions. But it's an impossible 
job. It's too late. Debs thought also that it was impossible. 
Debs—" His voice trailed away. Debs had said to him, 
"Schilling, this is the cleanest lesson in economics that I 
ever had. This makes me a socialist; other things, yes, but 
until the day I die, I won't forget this. Quietly, they took 
over the government; quietly, they made it plain to the 
people that they are the government. Tell Altgeld I'll 

26 j 


fight, but it's no use, not one god-damned bit of use. His 
way is no good. Tell him that. Tell him that he's chasing a 
rainbow. Or leave him alone, and hell wake up tomorrow 
and have the answer." 


Telegrams, messengers, more reporters, ward-workers, 
long-distance calls, more telegrams, consultations when it 
was too late for consultation, frantic appeals at a time 
when some precincts had already closed their boxes and 
proceeded to count. If any man was removed from inno- 
cence in politics, it was John Peter Altgeld; he knew that 
ballot boxes were stuffed; he knew the workings as well as 
the principles of election-day resurrection, where a thou- 
sand cemeteries gave up their dead of five generations past; 
he knew of the countless infant fatalities who somehow 
grew to sufficient maturity to become loyal party voters; he 
knew of the birth certificates forged for numberless ghosts 
who had no existence outside of the ward-heeler's file; he 
even knew the mechanics of such mundane and plug-ugly 
methods as Bathhouse John practiced, those of loading 
brewery wagons with bums and thugs, and voting them all 
day long, round and round the city; he even knew how 
much laudanum was necessary to load a watcher's coffee, 
so that he would watch no more, and he was not ignorant 
of that fact that while votes, by and large, cost five dollars 
apiece, among certain sections of the population votes 
could be bought for two dollars, and the contents of a 
municipal jail could be voted at fifty cents a head. He had 
seen elections where, out of a total electorate of one hun- 
dred thousand, each party had voted twice that number, 
and he also knew that a conservative politician marked off 



at least one seventh of the national vote as being fraudu- 
lent. This was a part of American democracy, and it was 
practiced by both parties with equal efficiency although not 
with equal funds; and it was taken for granted by every- 
one except very small children and a few maiden ladies. 

But in this election there were new refinements that 
made the fumbling and tradition-bound efforts of Bath- 
house John seem completely adolescent. It was a step for- 
ward when Pinkertons were hired to promote riots in Bryan 
meetings with stinkbombs and smokebombs and wild 
screams and when the newspapers created daily false stories 
of anarchist assassinations; but even that was unorganized 
in terms of the insurance and bank scheme. Rumors of this 
trickled in for weeks before election day; but the farm 
population was widespread; communications were bad; 
and while the farmers were almost wholly for Bryan they 
could not be either reached or organized either by their 
granges or populist committees in the same terms in which 
the workers were organized and reached through the trade 
unions. So, at first, when one farmer told the story of hav- 
ing his fire insurance canceled because of the possibility of 
Bryan's election, it was shrugged off; but when farmer 
after farmer reported the same thing, the shape of a na- 
tional campaign became apparent; but the full shape of it 
was not realized until a few hours after Altgeld had heard 
of the closed-shop technique: then Dreyer, the same who 
had delivered the pardon message, called and said he had 
to see him. Dose said the Governor was busy; busy was a 
small word; actually, the suite had become a madhouse by 
that time. But Altgeld said, "Let him come up. One more 
won't matter." But he mattered; he pulled Altgeld into a 
corner and told him about the banks. More than four hun- 
dred banks were involved, and they were demanding all 



call loans and overdue mortgages. They had timed their 
demands for today and tomorrow and along with the de- 
mands had gone the information that both loans and mort- 
gages would be extended if McKinley were elected presi- 
dent. The majority of the banks involved— and there might 
be hundreds more, for all Dreyer knew— stretched right 
across the corn and hog belt and into the south, like a 
girdle over the grange and populist territory, where Bryan 
was strongest. "I wanted you to know," Dreyer said, wip- 
ing the sweat from his face, nervous, possessed of a shame 
that seemed as much of him as his skin. "I'm not for your 
man, but I'm not for this. What in God's name is a free 
vote, if you tell a man that when his candidate comes in, 
he's going to lose his farm and everything else he owns?" 
"I don't know what a free vote is," Altgeld said, "but 
thank you for telling me." "Well, I'm glad I told you. It's 
in confidence, you understand, Governor?" "In confidence, 
of course." 


Toward evening, it began to quiet down. Only Darrow, 
Schilling, Martin, and McConnell were left. An hour be- 
fore, Altgeld had told his secretary, "Bill, it's washed out. 
We haven't a chance in a million. So you might as well get 
down to Springfield and catch up on my work. Emma 
wants to go right back there; I don't blame her." 

A Tribune reporter had asked him if he intended to stay 
up all night for the returns. "I have no doubt about the 
returns," he smiled. "I intend to sleep." He said as much 
to McConnell, and that old friend of his nodded. "You're 
right, Pete. We've got nothing to celebrate." "Except that 
we've learned something." "Maybe we have and perhaps 



we haven't. This isn't the last election, Pete. Every four 
years, something like this will happen. Perhaps they'll take 
the simple way and run Jack and Jill; but if they try to 
buck it, do you think they'll do better than we did?" "If I 
knew what we were bucking." 

But Darrow didn't think it was lost. "You underrate the 
people," he insisted. "That's the trouble with all of you. 
All of you underrate the people. Barnum was clever when 
he said a sucker is born every minute, but sometimes the 
people learn." 

Altgeld had relaxed into a chair. The strain was leaving 
his face, and he was smiling at Emma who stood watching 
him. "I'm all right, my dear. No, Clarence; Mr. Barnum is a 
superficial and foolish man. Yes, I've met him, I know. A 
bad man— anyone is who thinks of people in such terms. 
We're not dealing with suckers; we're dealing with men 
and women who think and who react, and who are fright- 
ened and unorganized, and, God knows, I don't blame 
them for that. Unless we try to understand what happened 
during the past few months, everything we put into this is 
going to be thrown out, worthless, lost." 

"We can still win," Darrow insisted, and Altgeld re- 
plied, somewhat sharply: 

"We can't win. That's what I'm trying to get into your 
head, Clarence— we can't win. From the very start of this 
thing, we were beaten, but we didn't know. Because we 
didn't know what we were fighting and how to fight it— 
and, God help us, we still don't!" 

Schilling said goodby. There were tears in his eyes. 
Emma kissed him and said, "Go to bed, George. This is a 
fine thing. You have bags under your eyes." Clarence Dar- 
row went with him. Night had come, and this was election 
night in Chicago, with great bonfires lighting up the sky. 



They went to the window and watched. Joe Martin had 
said very little; now he said, "Meatpacker and whore to the 
world," softly, so that Emma didn't hear but only McCon- 
nell who stood next to him. The judge put his arm around 
Altgeld and whispered goodnight. Emma walked with him 
to the door, leaving the two men at the window. They 
stood there in silence until Emma returned, and then Joe 
Martin murmured: 

"Some men, Pete, get pleasure from different things, 
cards, women, and I've known some of our American 
aristocrats whose hobby was putting diamond fillings in 
their teeth, but I think, with you, it's hitting your head 
against a stone wall—" The tone of his voice robbed it of 
all offense; they stood in the shadow, and Emma couldn't 
see his face, but the intonation was more bitter than re- 

"You thought there was no chance, right from the be- 

"None," Martin said. 

"And you don't know why I did it?" 

"I know," Martin said tiredly. "I know, Pete. All right, 
so I know. It always was this way; it's always going to be 
this way. The strong are going to take from the weak, and 
men are going to go hungry, and they're going to die, and 
I wouldn't give you twenty cents for the power of an ideal 
or a Christian sentiment. Because if there are worse liars 
than the swine who operate our free press, it's the sacred 
pastors who stand in their pulpits and methodically cut 
your throat. Your trade unions don't cut any ice with me, 
Pete; it's the men who own the guns and the schools and 
the churches and the factories who pay off, and you've let 
them crucify you. ..." 

A short while after that, he took up his hat and coat and 



left. Emma ordered dinner sent up. She was amazed at 
how well her husband ate. A great load seemed to have 
been lifted from him. From the time Martin left, he didn't 
mention the election again, and when Emma suggested 
that they might have the phone switched off and messages 
held, he agreed eagerly. They ate a good dinner, and then 
Altgeld stretched out on a chair, his feet up on a stool. 

"I wish you would read something— I don't know what," 
he said. 

She had a copy of Huckleberry Finn in the bedroom; 
she brought it in, opened it, and read at random from here 
and there. They both knew the book well. He asked for 
the part about the duke and the king and then the part 
about the vendetta. He was half awake and half asleep 
after an hour of this. She helped him into the bedroom, 
and as soon as he was in bed, he was sleeping. 

Emma couldn't sleep; she sat at the window, in the dark, 
watching the lights of the city, thinking about this and 
that, and about many things and about nothing at all. The 
election seemed a long time ago, and it seemed more than 
a lifetime ago that she had read each day in the papers 
of a labor leader called Albert Parsons, who was going to 
be hanged by the neck until dead. And when had she read 
of a party a New York millionaire gave where a racehorse 
was the guest of honor, eating a champagne mash of oats 
out of a golden trough, and where each of the guests was 
given a diamond horseshoe worth several thousand dollars 
as a souvenir? Her thoughts were not of condemnation, 
not relative; she thought of one thing and another, watch- 
ing the sprawling, windy, incredible city that had come 
out of the prairie and the woods, as her husband had, 
confused as he was, uncertain as he was, and as incredibly 
strong and inevitable. . . . 



The next morning, they learned that William McKinley 
was president-elect of the United States and that John 
Tanner was governor-elect of the sovereign State of Illi- 
nois. Even though in the state, Altgeld had run more than 
ten thousand votes ahead of Bryan, the two had gone down 
together. But, to this, Altgeld reacted with almost no emo- 
tion at all. He ate a good breakfast of wheatcakes, bacon, 
eggs, and hot rolls. "I must have slept like a log last night," 
he told Emma. "I feel good." 

When Schilling called on the phone, Altgeld was able 
to laugh at his hollow voice. "Get some sleep," he said. 
"My god, George, you've been up all night. How do you 
expect things to look?" "But we've lost— don't you under- 
stand?" "We've lost. That's right. Go to sleep, and then 
think about it." 

And he asked Emma, "You have the tickets?" 

She nodded. He suggested a walk along the lakefront 
before they left. "You know, we'll be coming back here 
soon to live. You're not disappointed?" She said, "Pete, I 
would have given five years of my life for you to have won 
that election." He took her in his arms as he hadn't for 
a long time, 


In many ways, many men reacted, for something was tak- 
ing shape, and in one fashion or another, some more 
clearly, some less clearly, they saw it. To Schilling, who 
came to see him still sleepless, Gene Debs said, "So it came 
out as I said." "That's right. Do you want to gloat?" "No, 
Schilling, I don't want to gloat. You made your bed with 
them because it was soft to lay in, and Parsons' been dead 
a long time." "What the devil does that have to do with 



it?" "Because you walked out on us, but whenever you 
came back, we were here. All right, we said, this is an 
honest man, we'll support him. Now we're going to hoe 
our own row. They showed us their strength; now we'll 
show them the good right arm of the workers. We're 
strong, too, Schilling, and we're learning how to fight." "So 
you'd crucify him with the rest?" "I don't crucify him. God 
damn it, Schilling, what kind of a fool are you?" Schilling 
was tired and without words to hit back; he stared at the 
tall, lean organizer, and he nodded, and he walked out. 
And home, in bed at last, he was able to let his tears flow, 
weeping for the first time in as long as he could remember. 
But Debs didn't weep, sitting behind the kitchen table of 
the little shack that was his home, hard chin in hands, the 
Chicago Tribune spread out in front of him, Altgeld 
spread-eagled, flayed and defined: ". . . his criminal sym- 
pathies, his anarchistic tendencies, his fostering of evil, his 
patronage and protection of Debsism, free riot . . ." and on 
and on: Debs didn't weep, but read with cold eyes. 

Someone had said to Debs, not long ago, that what- 
ever was done to Pete Altgeld in their own time, history 
would right it; history would wring the truth from it: but 
now and today, Debs reflected that history was a forlorn 
hope. Life was on his side, but let the abstract truth be for 
the scholars; he had a bitter impatience. Through the thin 
walls, he could hear from next door how a baby whim- 
pered for food; the Monday before, he had gone to the 
burial of Johnny Ames, a stockyards organizer who had 
died from tuberculosis, contracted on top of too many beat- 
ings, too much exposure, too much starvation. Let others 
wait for history; he had seen a ditch on the edge of 
packing-town filled with the cold-blue dead of a Polish 
family, starved out. Let them tell him that this was a land 



where no one starved! His thoughts roamed to people too 
numerous to count, and there was one emotion, one drive, 
one plea— and that was hunger. 

His long fingered, work-hardened hands turned the pages 
of the Tribune. He read with serious and intent interest. 

In the Union League Club, at the same time, the cele- 
bration was winding up or running down— as you would 
have it— as the earth turned and the sun rose and the new 
day came in. There had been a unique celebration, for the 
small gods of Chicago had forgotten their careful manners. 
They say that a reaction from fear will express itself in 
multiple ways, even to the extent of fat bankers lining up 
from a wall to play that old and venerated game of Johnny 
Ride the Pony. That was in the early part of the evening, 
when restraint still operated, and it was small and harm- 
less pleasure that was gotten from pork-butchers, steel- 
men, bankers, rolling-stock operators, and many others join- 
ing hands and dancing ring-around-the-rosey and roaring 
out, "Well, I guess I'll have to telegraph my baby, I need 
the money bad, indeed I do." That was when a victory was 
only expected, not yet conceded; when actual confirmation 
of the fact that William McKinley was president was re- 
ceived, champagne was flowing like Niagara Falls, and a 
late supper was served, beefsteak, venison steak, pheasant, 
grouse, rib roasts, stuffed turkeys, and with it appropriate 
trimmings, sweets, nuts. It was after that the real enter- 
tainment began, something to remember. However, this 
was reaction to a danger that was gone, and no one can be 
condemned for relaxing. 

The people of the city and of the country relaxed too. 
The brief excitement had worn off; an election had come 
and gone, but the republic was maintained, and what was 
all this talk of an end to freedom, not to mention the sub- 



stantial good things of life? The citizens woke up, and it 
was the same, the shadows in the same places, the smell of 
coffee the same, the voices the same. 

For Altgeld, there was the need of making an estimate. 
They looked to him now, as they had when Bryan won the 
nomination, and Bryan himself had called and asked, hope- 

"Governor, what are we going to do?" 

"Wait for the next time. Make some use of what we've 
learned." But he himself was unsure of what they had 
learned. When he wrote down his statement, the words 
came hard and they sounded flat, for all their bumptious- 
ness: "Consider that only six months ago our great party 
lay prostrate. It had been betrayed into the hands of the 
thieves and monopolists by President Cleveland—" He 
read it to Emma. She asked him, "Thieves?" He felt he was 
overemphasizing it and changed the word to "jobbers." He 
was writing without certainty, ". . . It arose with new 
energy, it cut loose from the domination of trusts and 
syndicates . . ." "It's good," Emma reassured him. "Don't 
be afraid." That was a reversal, and he stared at her for a 
long while. When had she ever told him not to be afraid? 

"You mean because I've lost everything, there's no more 
to lose?" 

"I didn't mean that, Pete." 

"Do you think I'm afraid?" 

"I don't think you're afraid of anything on earth, Pete. 
That isn't what I meant." 

"Then what?" 

"I want you not to think that you're beaten, Pete." 



But with each word he wrote, the vastness of the defeat 
sank in. When he put on paper, of his party, "It drove out 
the political vermin and with a new inspiration it again 
proclaimed democratic principles and espoused the cause 
of toiling humanity," he could only whisper, "My God, I 
sound like Bryan." 

He felt more like himself when he wrote, "It was con- 
fronted by all the boodle that could be scraped together on 
two continents; it was confronted by all the banks, all the 
trusts, all the syndicates, all the corporations, all the great 
papers." That, at least, was the sober truth; and whatever 
his own future was, or the party's, let it be set down that 
this single time at least, the Democrats had fought bravely 
against great odds. He wrote bitterly, "It was confronted 
by everything that money could buy, that boodle could 
debauch or that fear of starvation could coerce. ..." 

But reading it to Emma, the condition became more 
plain. Everything had been with the opposition; they had 
won, very simply, because the force and the wealth of the 
nation were with them. He said to his wife, dully: 

"All day now, I've been nursing myself on the belief that 
four years from now we could make the people under- 
stand. But four years from now they'll close down the 
factories again." 

He finished writing what would afterward be called the 
manifesto of democracy. For him, it was a confession of 


Two months were left now. They had lived in the execu- 
tive mansion for four years, and Emma, when she began to 
pack, shook her head hopelessly. Her husband was a type 
who practiced an almost automatic accumulation. Books 



piled up in high stacks, and it broke his heart to part with 
any of them. He saved newspapers and magazines, explain- 
ing that he would never know when he might want some- 
thing. Brand Whitlock helped Emma sort out the stuff; 
the Governor himself was not too interested. He told them 
they might keep what they thought was worth keeping, 
throw the rest away. There was a certain absentmindedness 
in all of his actions now. Without saying anything to 
Emma, he would wrap himself up in coat and muffler, go 
out, and begin a slow shuffle across the lawn; it broke her 
heart to watch that, and now and again she would ask 
young Whitlock to join him. Apologetic, she would tell the 
boy, "He's very sick, you know," realizing how furious her 
husband would have been had he overheard. Brand Whit- 
lock would take long strides to join Altgeld, thinking all 
the while, desperately, how he would open the conversa- 
tion. But the Governor liked him, and his greeting would 
invariably be, "Hello, son, and what is it today?" 

"I was reading in the papers that there's almost no doubt 
that there'll be war with Spain. What do you think, sir?" 

"And you came galloping across the lawn to tell me the 
papers are promoting a war with Spain?" 

"Well, sir, no— that is, not exactly—" 

"All right, Brand. Yes, sure, there's going to be war with 
Spain— that's the beginning. That's going to be a lot of 
war, a different kind of violence. Just beginning. My god, 
there's going to be the kind of bloodletting that will make 
our thing between the states look like a skirmish." 

"But why-why?" 

"Why do we want Cuba? You tell me. Why do we want 
the Philippines? Why do we want Puerto Rico? You tell 
me why. And when are we going to be satisfied— oh, the 
devil with that! Tell me about yourself. If you come out to 



walk with me, don't sweat over some proper conversational 

"Yes, sir." 

"And do you understand— come to see me in Chicago. 
I'll be a new man when I get out o£ here." 

But that was bravado. Chicago was just another stop 
now, for it did not seem to him that he was going anywhere 
at all. Much like an automaton, he cleared up his work. 
His accountants came down from Chicago, and though he 
had known much of it, he was nevertheless astounded to 
discover how deeply in debt he was, how much of a poor 
man he was. Being Governor of Illinois, being nominal 
leader of the national party— none of that had swelled his 
wealth, but rather drained from him almost every penny 
he had. As the figures shaped up, he began to wonder how 
a poor man could function in an office, even considering 
that he should be elected to one, except by joining the 
systematic robbery of the people that was taken for granted 
by so many. That, he had never indulged in; not because 
his character morally prohibited it, but because he had 
such a deep-seated contempt for graft, because out of the 
years it had emerged, in his eyes, as a cheap and despicable 

He cleaned things up, put things away, washed his hands 
of them, and went off to tell Emma that they were poor. 
Yet he was half ashamed as he said it. "We won't starve," 
he explained. "I'm still a good lawyer, I think, and I think 
I have a few friends." 

"I'm glad." 

He realized what she meant. One thing after another 
had to be sloughed off; now it was the money. 

"We're going to be free," she said. "We're going to do a 
lot of things that we wanted to do, aren't we, Pete?" 



She didn't mean traveling this time; she didn't mean 
long afternoons in the sunlight; she actually meant, in the 
essence of it, that they would be free— to speak their own 
minds, starve, go to jail, or walk as much as they wanted to 
along the lakefront of Chicago. They would be free to find 
the direction for which he had been searching. 

He put his arm around her; he said to her, "I'm an old 
man, Emma, and if I were a religious man, I'd say I am 
dying of my sins. We don't speak about that, do we, but 
you know I've been looking at the wives of other men. It's 
reassuring; it's rewarding too. I'm very lucky." 

He said that to Hinrichsen when the Secretary of State 
offered condolences. "To hell with all that," he said. "My 
heart isn't breaking, Buck. Don't act like it is." 

"I only wish you had been born in this damned coun- 

"Would that make me an American, Buck?" 

"It would make you president." 

"You're lying in your teeth. I told you, to hell with that. 
I told you I don't want any sympathy. I'm beginning to 
open my eyes. Do you know what it is to feel free, Buck? 
Hell— of course you don't. Well, the only real freedom is to 
recognize what you have to do, and I'm beginning to get 

He was in a better mood as he prepared his farewell 
message for Tanner's inauguration; he put down the 
things he wanted to say, the things he wanted noted, 
marked, and remembered. Among other finalities, death is 
the aching knowledge that you will leave things half fin- 
ished, unsaid, open to misinterpretation, lies and slander. 
Doc Arbady of Chicago, who was his good friend, had said 
to him, not so long ago, "You ask me a straight question, 
Pete, and this answer is straight. Locomotor Ataxia means 



that you are dying. That's broad, but not so broad as it 
might be. Consider that every man begins to die at a cer- 
tain point, thirty, thirty-five— from then on, it's downhill, 
but slowly, and some of us live to be a hundred. With you, 
the process is quickened. The way you walk is a sign of 
that. Those pains are another sign, the dizziness, weakness, 
vomiting— all of those are symptoms. Maybe you'll live for 
ten years; that's possible, but I don't say it's likely. If I 
were in your place, I would do everything I have to do 
soon. Early each day." He had thanked Doc Arbady and 
he had acted on his advice. And once he had overcome— 
at least partially— the heart-paralyzing fear, the urgency of 
death was not altogether unacceptable. At least, there was 
a ready satisfaction in each act completed, such as he felt 
when he had written this farewell message, when he had 
read it aloud to Emma, slowly and emphatically. 

"I'm glad you can say those things, Pete," she nodded. 

But he didn't say them. He sat on the platform with 
Governor Tanner, and afterwards he reflected that this 
was merely cheap and childish. For the first time, a retiring 
governor of the state was kept voiceless, and the carefully 
prepared speech remained in his pocket. The new gover- 
nor said, afterwards, "Sorry, Altgeld, but there was no time 
on the program. It's a shame that you couldn't talk, but I 
presume you understand." 

"I understand," Altgeld smiled. 

Then they went north to Chicago and home, hands 
washed clean. At the station, Joe Martin alone waited, and 
he put his arms around both Altgeld and Emma. 

The wind came in from the lake, cold and fresh. It was 
a bright clear evening as they rode through the streets of 
the city. 




He was not yet fifty years old, but he was old not young, 
an old man who puttered around at this and that. His 
friends came to Emma and wondered what they could do, 
and she shook her head hopelessly. The newspapers were 
after him again, but for once he didn't seem to have the 
energy or the desire to fight back. They had a new tag for 
him, said to have been coined by the bright young Teddy 
Roosevelt, "The Illinois Communist." A new and lurid 
quality had come into their stories; as the Governor of 
Illinois, he had been a dangerous man; he had shown a 
devastating tendency to strike back; as Altgeld, the private 
citizen, the red, he was fair game, and as fair game they 
went after him. When he told a reporter that private enter- 
prise might be wrong— a lot of things had to be looked at 
differently, that particular paper flared forth with the 
headline: "altgeld calls for revolution!" When he 
argued his first case in court, the judge stared at him 
hostilely; he won the decision in spite of the bench, and 
his antagonism was hardly concealed. What assets he had 
left disappeared like snow under a hot sun; the brokers, 
bankers, and businessmen of Chicago were smilingly hard. 
"Pay your debts," they told him. That a fortune of his had 
gone down the drain of the party, and that many of them 
were Democrats as well as Republicans did not seem to 
matter. When Joe Martin came to his rescue with thirty- 
five thousand dollars and forced him to take it, he said, 
"You know, Joe, I won't live long enough to repay this. 
I've lost the knack of making money." "You repaid it a 
long time ago," Martin said. He took it, and he saw it go 
after the rest, good money after bad, as they said. His busi- 



ness partner and cousin, John Lanehart, had died, leaving 
more debts, and somehow he found the money to pay 
them. It was no longer a case of becoming a rich man; it 
was how to become a poor man gracefully. 

He read a good deal in those days. Emma was making a 
home again— the house in Chicago was practically all that 
they had left— and in his study there he found himself 
learning. He wanted to know all there was to know of what 
had happened in the past two generations. The repetitious 
phrases of the reformers, the lurid accounts of John D. 
Rockefeller, Jim Fisk, Commodore Vanderbilt, Leland 
Stanford, Phil Armour, J. P. Morgan, and all the rest were 
not enough. He knew how it had happened; he had seen 
it happen here in Chicago, and some of the spoil had even 
been flung to him. He wanted to know why it had hap- 
pened, why a great nation had been delivered over to 
them, hand and foot and mouth, and why now, under their 
pressure, this same nation was setting forth on an imperial- 
ist march to master the world. He was drawn into a may- 
oralty campaign; the Democrats had put up young Carter 
Harrison, whose father had been mayor of Chicago when 
the Haymarket people were hanged, and they wanted Alt- 
geld to lend his weight. He did so, but in place of his old 
enthusiasm was a scientific curiosity. Here in Chicago the 
two parties had become like one, and though the Demo- 
crats were victorious, all the fine-sounding ideals for which 
he had battled nationally were thrown overboard and their 
loss was hardly noticed except by a very few. His attitude 
toward politics was not becoming one of cynicism, but 
rather one of anger. The whole hysterical pageant was re- 
lating itself to those cold-eyed, cool-headed men who ruled 
their dozen industrial empires like no kings the world had 



ever known. In order that they might have peace, in order 
that they might have numberless and willing servants, they 
observed an ancient ritual on the first Tuesday after the first 
Monday each November. And in order that the ritual 
might be well observed, they employed his kind, the politi- 
cians, the modern gladiators who coldbloodedly performed 
on specified occasions, but ate from the same bowl and 
lived in the same enclosure. It was overt and cheap and 
almost ridiculous when Mark Hanna dangled William Mc- 
Kinley on the several golden strings provided by the 
Morgans and the Rockefellers and the Carnegies, but was it 
less so, he wondered, when they allowed an opposition 
candidate to win, as they did sometimes, and then bought 
in on the new administration, bought out the cabinet, the 
congress, the large fry and the small fry. . . . 

He wasn't shocked when the Maine went down and the 
war cries echoed from coast to coast. He was beginning to 
understand, not fully, but better than he had ever under- 
stood before, and he began to come out of his lethargy. He 
woke to life suddenly, and Emma found herself dragged 
out to meetings, to the theatre, to certain dinners. Once 
again the parade of people, strange people, all kinds of peo- 
ple to the home of Pete Altgeld began. He felt a renewed 
strength. And when Darrow and Schilling came with their 
proposal of a third party for the next local election, he was 
ready to listen. 

"But don't go off half-cocked,* " he told Darrow coldly. 
"This is going to be hard and murderous, and I don't 
think we're going to win. You have to begin somewhere, 
and we begin here." 

"But you'll be the candidate?" 

"I'll run for mayor, that's right. But just remember that 



we're operating on a shoestring. I'm broke." And to Schil- 
ling, he said, "I want to meet Debs, George. Will you ar- 
range it?" 


"Here or anywhere. I don't care." 


They sat in the kitchen of Debs' house, a pitcher of beer 
on the table, two glasses, Altgeld's hat and coat on a chair 
at one side, a small black dog poking at Debs' hand, the 
smell of recently cooked cabbage, an open ten-cent copy- 
book in which Debs had been writing, a bottle of ink and 
a pen, and a plate with two slices of dry bread on it. They 
had shaken hands and spoken a few words of greeting and 
now they sat and looked at each other. 

"We should have met a long time ago," Altgeld said. 

Debs was not impressed. He poured two glasses of beer, 
carefully, not spilling a drop. "I'm not sure," he said. 

"I want to talk about some things, Debs, but I want you 
to trust me. You don't trust me, do you?" 


"I suppose you have reasons." 

"A lot of reasons." 

"Would you mind—" 

"I don't mind. Generally, I don't trust your kind. I don't 
trust lawyers; I don't trust rich men, I don't like them. I 
don't like the miserable little lackeys of the trusts, of 
Standard Oil and New York Central and Carnegie Steel 
and the rest. That's generally. Specifically, you were gov- 
ernor—well, what happened? Is it any better now then 
when you became governor?" 

"No— it's worse." 



"Beer?" Debs asked. Altgeld nodded. They both sipped 
at their glasses. 

"Would it have been any better if you were governor?" 
Altgeld asked. 


"Why did you support me in the election?" 

"You were the lesser of two evils. That's all. That's the 
whole reason." 

"And you don't believe that if Bryan had won, if I had 
won, it would be any better?" 

"That's right," Debs said quietly. "No better. We would 
be at war with Spain sooner or later. Maybe it would have 
been a little harder, a little more expensive for them to 
buy out the Democrats, but it wouldn't cost more than the 
ten million they spent on McKinley." 

"You're a socialist, aren't you?" 

"That's no secret," Debs said. 

"And that's the only thing that represents any hope to 
you? You don't see any good coming out of capitalism?" 

"You don't answer that question by saying yes." Debs 
smiled for the first time. "There's some progress under 
capitalism. You know that, Altgeld— I don't have to draw 
pictures for you. You remember when there were no rail- 
roads, and today the railroads are here. It's true that maybe 
a hundred thousand men died of disease building them; 
it's true that the capital came by giving the promoters a 
billion acres of public land; it's true that they were built 
by idiots more than by engineers, and almost all the lines 
had to be relaid; it's true that the iron rails wore like 
cheese, and that not so long ago there were seventy-six 
different track gauges, and that for a period of twenty 
years there was never a train that ran on schedule, and that 
God knows how many of the public were killed riding the 



rotten rolling stock, and that more than five thousand 
workers were murdered in rail labor battles— but we have 
the railroad, and that's progress, isn't it?" 

"I don't mean that," Altgeld said, differently on the 
defensive than he had ever been, not knowing whether 
Debs was laughing at him, liking him or quietly con- 

"Do I think we can ever legislate the evils away? Maybe 
we can. That's why I'm a socialist, not to make a revolu- 
tion and a commune, as the Tribune's so glad to say. But 
maybe. If we had ten million votes for socialism, I still 
don't know if they'd hand over the government to us. It's 
their government. It was their government when you were 
Governor. That's why your militia shot us down when we 
struck, Altgeld. You want me to forget that?" 

"I don't ask you to forget it. I know what I did when I 
was Governor. I took an oath. I enforced the law." 

"Their law." 

"The law of the state. I'm not proud. I'm not ashamed. 
I did what I had to do. I'd do it again. If the law is no 
good, then it has to be changed. The Governor enforces 
what law there is." 

"That's an evasion." 

"The hell it is!" Altgeld snapped. "I'm no socialist, 
Debs. You ought to know that, if no one else in America 

"I know it." He hesitated a moment, drank down the 
rest of his beer, and said quietly, "Who's with you, Alt- 
geld? You try to walk in the middle, and who's your 
friend? You try to make your peace with this rotten system 
—why? You're the first man since Lincoln who can speak 
to the people, who doesn't despise the people, and whom 
they love. That's right, they love you, they trust you. You 



could have been a Fisk or a Gould or an Armour, but you 
didn't. But it's not the way it was when Abe Lincoln be- 
came president. When they marched off to the war and the 
paper uniforms melted in the rain and the rotten guns 
blew up in their faces, then it became different. My god, 
Altgeld, you can't be a Lincoln today; there'll be no more 
Lincolns in America— that's gone. We're not a democracy, 
we're an oligarchy. If you didn't realize that when they 
closed down the factories before election day, you never 
will. You were there— you saw McDonald sell out the 
street-car franchises for ninety-nine years; you saw what 
happened at Pullman. What in hell am I talking for— you 
pardoned the anarchists, didn't you?" 

Altgeld nodded, his face like a mask, his blue eyes 
staring fixedly at Debs. 

"Come with us," Debs pleaded. The barriers were down. 
He leaned across the table, his long, powerful hands grip- 
ping the edge. His face was an earnest of silent pleading. 
His tongue wet his lips, and in the live muscles of his 
cheeks, his chin, was all that he wanted to say and could 
not find the words for. "Come with us, Altgeld," he re- 
peated. "The world found democracy through America- 
it's going to find socialism through America. It's going to 
find the life God made man to live. It's going to find the 
workers building the kind of palaces that will make your 
lakefront mansions look like shacks. There's going to be a 
republic of farmers and workers, where men are equal 
and free. A land without unemployment, a land where 
children grow up strong and clean and decent. It's going 
to be a beautiful, great land! God almighty, Altgeld, what's 
your stake with them?" 

No expression on Altgeld's face, no reaction. "I'm not a 
socialist, Debs," he said quietly. "That's honest. I'm a 



dying man, Debs. I've got nothing to hide, nothing to fear. 
I just don't go along with you— I can't." He made no ex- 
planations; in his dry, rasping voice, there was a quality 
almost of anguish. Debs realized why men loved him; he 
was the end of something. Beyond him were the mighty 
forests cut down, the lashing wave of the frontier, the 
democracy of democracies, where all was possible and 
nothing impossible. Yet in that moment Debs pitied him 
and hated him, and the intimacy was gone, and they were 
just two men sitting at a kitchen table, and finally Altgeld 
said, "You know why I'm here." 

"Schilling told me." 

"What do you think of a third party, Debs?" 

"I told you before. The third party for America is the 
party of socialism. It can't be different." 

"Then that means you won't support me as an inde- 
pendent candidate for mayor?" 

"We'll support you," Debs said wearily. "We supported 
you for Governor— we'll support you as long as you run, 
Altgeld. What I'm fighting for won't come tomorrow, and 
until then I want to live." 

They shook hands, and Altgeld left him. Debs watched 
him walk away, a small, feeble man whose feet dragged as 
he walked. 


Altgeld was like a child; his excitement was like a run- 
ning fever. As he told Emma, "If I was standing for presi- 
dent, it wouldn't be this way." For the first time, he was on 
his own; for the first time in his political life, he was a 
candidate with no strings attached. It was like breathing 
fresh air after living for a generation in a stuffy room. It 



was like coming out of a cell into freedom. When Bath- 
house John, now against him, told him, "It cannot be 
done, Governor— it cannot be done," he answered, "Damn 
it, I'll show you that it can be done!" He forgot his illness; 
he forgot Doc Arbady's black predictions. When the Trib- 
une said, "The devil must be given his due, and there is no 
doubt but that John P. Altgeld is one of the most astute 
political minds in America," he responded with the first 
press conference in a long while. He was sick with nervous- 
ness as he waited for the reporters. He had seen to the 
cigars himself, fine black perfectos. He had invited men 
from the labor weeklies as well as the big dailies. Joe 
Martin served as doorkeeper and welcoming committee. 
Emma saw to the setups, cold lemonade as well as soda and 
water for the Scotch and rye whisky. While waiting, to hide 
his own nervousness, he lectured his wife and best friend 
on the importance of the press. "If the boss is against me 
and the reporter likes me, Joe, well that's a damn sight 
better than for the boss to be on my side and the reporter 
to hate my guts. Sure they're out to get me and they rake 
me over the coals. But look what they do to Teddy Roose- 
velt, the bosses' own little boy— I don't think there's a 
newspaperman in the country who doesn't know him for 
what he is, a puffed-up little ass, and, my word, but it 
comes through in their stories." 

The press was taken up to his study, and there he was, 
behind his desk, the way they remembered him, chin on 
hands, the blue eyes sparkling. 

"Going back in harness, Governor?" 

"I've never been out of harness," he said, fetching a 
laugh with the first sally. "I've just been taking a few deep 

"How does it feel to be out there alone, Governor?" 



"Alone? Have a cigar, son," he said, holding them out 
and passing them around. "Tell you something, they used 
to say about old Dan Boone that he was never lost— not 
just because he was at home in the woods, but because he 
was pretty well content with where he happened to be. 
Changes a man's viewpoint. That's the way I feel." 

"What about streetcar and gas franchises, Governor?" 

"They've been used as political spoil. Our public serv- 
ices are a rock around the public's neck, and the men who 
promoted them are latter-day bandits. You may quote me, 
gentlemen. This business of fifty-five- and ninety-nine-year 
franchises is a disgrace. I would grant no franchise for 
more than ten years or some such limited period, and then 
the public service reverts to the public." 

A labor reporter asked, "What about the right to strike 
and the right to assemble?" 

"Inviolate, in so far as the power of the mayor would be 
concerned. There would be no limitation except that of 
conditions, by which I mean traffic, transportation, and so 
forth. The streets belong to the people of this city, and if 
they want to picket on them or hold meetings on them, 
they damn well may!" 

"Does that go for communists and anarchists?" 

"It goes for all citizens of Chicago, regardless of their 
race, color, or political persuasion." 

"Does this mean that you've lost faith in the Democratic 
Party, Governor?" 

"It does not. The bigger the independent vote, the more 
strength to the party." 

"What about the war, Governor?" 

"I'm for Cuban independence, and I'm in favor of using 
American arms to help Cuba gain that independence. But 
I think the annexation of the Philippines, the Hawaiian 



and Sandwich Islands is shameful, and one more step on 
the road toward American imperialism. 

It went that way. For the first time, there were no strings 
attached, and he could speak his piece, talk out straight- 
forwardly and forthrightly. He could say where he stood, 
what he was for and what he was against. 

When he held his political councils, with Sam McCon- 
nell, with Clarence Darrow and George Schilling and Joe 
Martin, with Eugene Debs, they were open and to the 
point, unlike any he had ever participated in before. Clean 
air flowed. The little money they had was apportioned 
carefully but wisely. Harrison, the Democratic candidate, 
and Carter, the Republican, were both campaigning on a 
wild, communist-socialist witch hunt, pouring an almost in- 
sane flood of invective upon Altgeld. Rather than answer 
this, he decided to devote all his energy to getting his own 
platform across at a series of public and labor meetings. 

He had always written his own speeches. But now he had 
twenty or thirty appearances in the same city, which meant 
at least a diversity of material— in addition to which he had 
to keep up his private law practice, both to pay his bills and 
to find whatever money he could for the campaign. He rose 
very early, and wrote before breakfast. At the table, Emma 
was his sounding board and critic. After that to court or 
his office; perhaps a street meeting before dinner, and then 
appointments and consultations during dinner. There was 
rarely a night without two meetings, and often enough 
there were three and four appearances to be made the same 
night. Emma was amazed at how well he stood it; she was 
personal attendant, secretary and adviser. She learned how 
to mix the guests of honor properly before a meeting, how 
to circulate among them, how to make the wives of small 
businessmen and workingmen feel at home with each 

2 93 


other, how to arrange an agenda at the last moment, and 
how to jot down her husband's interpolated remarks, so 
that they would have a record later to check against the 
newspaper accounts. 

The meetings were very heartening. In both the West 
Side and the South Side, he spoke to the largest political 
meetings those neighborhoods had ever known. Every- 
where, halls were jam-packed. Men came from the shops in 
their work clothes; storekeepers, small tradesmen, women 
who took their children along because there was no one at 
home with whom to leave them, a new and alert cross-sec- 
tion for political meetings. In Chicago, as well as elsewhere 
in America, it was the time-honored practice to pack politi- 
cal meeings by scouring the flophouses, the vagrancy cells 
in the jails, the Salvation Army halls, the downtown alleys 
where the homeless curled up to sleep after poking suf- 
ficiently in the garbage cans. Very often, ward-heelers 
were sent to packing-town and to the McCormick and Pull- 
man plants, where they distributed thousands of tokens. 
Each of these tokens, presented at the door of a political 
meeting, could be redeemed for ten cents, which not only 
assured a packed house for the newspapers to extol, but 
made a friend for the party. Of course, not everyone would 
come, but brisk trading went on for the tokens, and since 
only three per individual were acceptable at the door, the 
plan was near foolproof. Bathhouse John established and 
favored the practice of setting up a keg or two of beer 
adjacent to the hall, with the understanding that once the 
speeches were finished, everyone was welcome to see the 
bung punched and wet his whistle. However, even if he 
favored any of these methods, none was practical for Alt- 
geld's thin wallet. The meetings were advertised at the 
union headquarters; volunteers gave out throwaways at the 



shops and in the neighborhoods; nevertheless, precedent 
was broken, and night after night, the halls were full. 

He had learned a good deal about how to speak to peo- 
ple. He was fortunate in having an edged, clear voice, the 
kind that carries without effort. He could lean over the 
rostrum and talk to men at the rear of the hall, yet retain 
the intimate, toned-down quality of conversation. He an- 
swered questions simply and matter-of-factly, as, for ex- 
ample, when a man asked, "What do you intend to do 
about unemployment?" "See that no one in my city starves. 
That's all I can do, but I can do that." Generally half of 
every meeting was given over to questions and answers. He 
was establishing a new technique in Chicago politics. He 
minced no words. "I say a mayor is responsible for his 
police," he told one meeting. "I have in my possession the 
case histories of more than three hundred working people, 
clubbed and beaten by Chicago police in the past five 
years. I promise you that no worker will ever be clubbed 
in my administration. I say there's no justice for a poor 
man in Chicago today, at the judge's bench or at the police 
magistrate's rail. I'll fight to give you justice." He let go 
with venom, with hate, "This is a graft-ridden city— I 
know. I played ball with the local politicians. I talk from 
experience and I don't claim absolution from guilt. But I 
say that if I am elected mayor— I intend to clean up this 
city." "You're lying!" flung back at him and his own 
thrust, "Good. Never believe a politician! That's the one 
American axiom that sticks. So write down what I say, and 
present it for signature as I leave here." He could come 
out with those strokes, stabbing strokes that were some- 
thing new; and once he said to Emma: 

"The strange thing is that for once I'm speaking the 
God's honest truth." 

2 95 


Night after night, the faces spread before him. Night 
after night, their carriage took them from one part of town 
to another. For Altgeld, it was the long fight against odds 
that he loved so much; he was living again. He had taken 
the Democratic Party from Grover Cleveland. Now he 
would take Chicago from both parties, a gift from the peo- 
ple to their man. 


At dinner one night, with Darrow there and Schilling and 
Joe Martin, and their wives, and one fourteen-year-old boy 
who had been brought to meet the Governor, Altgeld 
basked in a warm family radiance; for this was the Ameri- 
can home and the American family, with stout stone walls 
to keep out the cold and a good roof to ward off the rain, 
and here was what had been built and would endure for 
the very reasons that man loved peace and security, and in 
the eyes of the fourteen-year-old boy, watching him so in- 
tently, was the future and the promise. He spoke of his 
boyhood and he spoke of his Civil War experience, and he 
smiled as he recalled one march in the rain where their 
uniforms, a mixture of shoddy and paper, had literally 
washed off their backs. 

"But that was in the bad old times," he told them, men 
and women and a boy, full of food and the after-dinner 
warmth. "The people were swindled because a new thing 
was happening, and the people still had to wake up to it. 
Now the people are awake/* 

The boy said he would want to go to war if he were old 
enough, and his mother looked at Altgeld. "Will it last 
that long?" the boy wanted to know. 

"I hope not," Altgeld said. 



"But it could?" 

"Not if the people are awake," he smiled, thinking of 
how the crowds cheered when he condemned the attack on 
the Philippines. 

"Are you a socialist, sir, because you're against war?" the 
boy asked. Darrow looked at Joe Martin, who was grin- 
ning broadly. The apologetic mother was eased by Emma's 

"No, I'm not a socialist. There are other people who 
hate war." 

"That's not a very polite question," the mother said. 

"Perfectly justified," Altgeld laughed. "After all, Eugene 
Debs believes that the only opposition to war is that of the 
socialists. In fact, he thinks I will lose the election." But 
the manner of his speaking left no doubts of his own 
opinion. Emma had never seen him so confident, so secure, 
so absolutely certain of the future. She watched him lean 
toward the boy and say: 

"You're seeing something, young man, that is worth 
cataloguing and filing away. In my opinion, you are wit- 
nessing the last imperialist war. From here on, the people's 
voice will sound. The brief march of the oligarchs is over." 


Emma remembered that dinner when they sat in their 
home, sat up through the evening into the morning, chart- 
ing the election results. It was different from that other 
time in the Palmer House. The hokey excitement of a 
presidential campaign was absent. There were just a few 
of them who sat past midnight, charting and studying the 
precinct results, getting reports from their independent 

2 9 y 


watchers, keeping a tally, keeping that unique score that 
is the pulse of a democratic people. 

By the early hours of the morning, when the shape of 
the election became apparent, Altgeld's face was deathly 
white. Darrow was somber, and Schilling was voiceless and 
hopeless. Only Joe Martin attempted to simulate cheer; 
only he kept pointing out that they had expected a stuffing 
of boxes, that they had expected every dirty move known 
to the game, that they had at their disposal only too few 
watchers, only too few tellers, and that they had fully in- 
tended to fight a fraud. 

"But it's not a fraud,'* Altgeld said dully. "I know how 
large a fraud can be built. Three votes to our one on the 
Democratic side, two to our one for the Republicans—" 

As the vote mounted, as the enormity of Altgeld's de- 
feat was hammered home, harder and harder, Schilling 
moaned, "Where are the people?" 

In the small hours of the morning, Altgeld's independent 
vote had passed forty thousand, with almost every precinct 
reported and told. For the Democrats, Harrison was close 
to the hundred and fifty thousand mark, and Carter, the 
Republican, had passed one hundred thousand. Altgeld 
went through the formality of conceding defeat. Crushed, 
Darrow said his goodbys and went home. Joe Martin cut a 
fresh cigar, and Schilling sat in a big chair, crumpled and 
beaten as an old bag of clothes. Emma brought them cof- 
fee, and they drank it in silence. No one mentioned sleep 
or home. They wrapped themselves in their own gloom. 

Finally, Schilling managed to say, "The working people 
voted. You can't tell me they didn't vote. If someone tries 
to tell me that, I will not believe it." 

"For Christ's sake, George, believe it!" Altgeld snapped. 

And Martin asked, "What do you make of it, Pete?" 



"Nothing but what's there. It's better to believe a dream 
than to believe the fact. I suppose those who followed Debs 
voted. But tell a man in packing-town that his six dollars a 
week will buy him more under me than under Carter or 
Harrison. They just got no reason to vote, no damned 
reason at all." 


Part Six 



vidual or that one, the news of Altgeld's defeat was most 
varied. In the Union League Club, for example, his going 
down produced hardly a ripple; for they were close enough 
to the mechanism of things to have no doubts as to the 
outcome, and they had never believed that this upstart re- 
bellion would produce more than the handful of votes it 
did. On the other hand, those old-line Chicago politicians 
who had worked with Altgeld in the past and responded 
to his masterly direction were somewhat saddened that he 
had been fool enough to buck a machine, to the building 
of which he himself had contributed. They felt that his 
sickness had affected his mind, and they also felt he had 
been badly swayed by his radical associations. There were 
those, like Gene Debs, who understood very fully the 
meaning of Altgeld's defeat, and there were also those who 
wept when the news came. 

Lucy Parsons wept, and she had not wept in a long, long 
time. Lucy Parsons' struggle was a long one; it went on 
into the future, and it had no ending. She had thought to 
herself in the beginning, when the blinding shock of her 
husband's death began to wear off somewhat, that no man 



dies completely— that no man, no matter how small, no 
matter how unimportant, no matter how insignificent, dies 
so completely that something of him is not left to go into 
the lives of others, a word, a gesture, a smile, more or less, 
something that enters the stream of human life and adds to 
the continuity of all living, all struggle and all hope; and 
certainly what her husband had been was in the lives of 
many men, in her own life, in her children's lives. Out of 
that concept, it seemed to her only natural, obvious and 
direct, that she should attempt to take up her husband's 
work and carry it through. She recognized what a tall order 
it was, and how poorly she was equipped. She had her chil- 
dren to care for and to raise; a living, no matter how small, 
had to be earned for herself and for them; and she could 
not rest until her husband, who had died upon the gallows 
like a common murderer, stood forth before the world 
with his name cleared and his purpose plain. To add onto 
this an agitator's career was not a comfortable action, but 
comfort was something she neither looked for nor ex- 

She was a stubborn woman, and when her purpose was 
laid down and made plain, she followed it through. As the 
years passed, she became one of the fixtures of Chicago 
streets. She was to be found here and there, first in one 
place and then in another, with her little stand set up, 
and the pile of books which contained her husband's 
thoughts and writings displayed. Visitors to Chicago, tour- 
ists, curiosity-seekers from one or another European city, 
were advised to be sure and see Lucy Parsons before they 
left, much as they were advised to see the stockyards. Those 
people who thought about it were amazed by the per- 
sistence of this small, dark woman, whose face still retained 
traces of beauty, but most of those who saw her did not 



think much about it, except to be as satisfied as one is to 
view the wife of a notorious man who came to his end on 
the gallows. 

But this was only a part of Lucy Parsons' life. Another 
part was her children, whom she loved so passionately, and 
who represented the continuance of her husband's flesh 
and blood as they grew into maturity. And still another 
part was her organizational work, through which she at- 
tempted to carry on what her husband had done. She spoke 
at union meetings; she was to be found on almost every 
picket line in the Chicago area; she would stand for hours 
at night in the bitter cold, distributing leaflets; she would 
trudge the streets, selling copies of the socialist paper. She 
was stolid, tireless, and as strong as a piece of tempered 
steel; perhaps the part of her which was American Indian 
contributed toward this, and there is no doubt that as time 
went on she came to resemble more and more those fore- 
bears of hers who had pitched their teepees on the treeless 
plains from time immemorial. Her face became lined and 
the bones made strong ridges as the flesh fell away; sun and 
weather darkened her skin; her eyes reflected that inward 
peace with time which so many Indians make, and which 
gives them such enduring patience; and her voice reached 
back for the soft, drawling inflection which was as much a 
part of her people as anything else. 

The men who worked with her came to accept the fact 
that Lucy Parsons was what she was, in so many ways 
stronger than they were. They used her strength because 
she offered it without ever asking for pity, and pity was 
one of the few things that made her deeply angry. Other- 
wise, she was calm, and apart from her family displayed 
little emotion. She studied constantly, reading during 
every spare moment she found, and even Debs admired 



and was amazed by her grasp of the labor situation in 

From the day Altgeld pardoned the three Haymarket 
prisoners, Lucy Parsons watched him. She read all that he 
wrote; she read the stories the newspapers printed about 
him. She would give precious hours to go to some meet- 
ing where he was speaking. Step by step, she followed his 
battle against Grover Cleveland, and she had furious argu- 
ments with friends of hers who did not trust him, and who 
insisted that whatever the label, a politician was a politi- 
cian. And finally, when he came forth on his independent 
ticket, she knew that her hopes and her dreams were justi- 
fied. She remembered one night, about six months before 
the Haymarket incident, when her husband came back 
from a heartbreaking trip into Pennsylvania. For once, his 
mood was black; he seemed not so much beaten as worn 
thin, and he said to her: 

"Where do we go, Lucy? Everywhere, the people plead, 
and there's no one to tell them what to do— no one to lead 
them. I don't mean someone like me, I mean someone with 
power and dignity and office, to stand up and make cause 
with the worker. If there was even one man in congress, 
one man to say, follow me. , . ." 

Albert Parsons had gone down to Coal Center on the 
Monongahela River, one person and alone, to see if there 
was any hope of organizing the miners. A thing was hap- 
pening in Coal Center that had happened and would con- 
tinue to happen in one part or another of America; but 
when it happened, those involved would isolate the area 
from the rest of America; it would burn out where it 



Coal Center was a fairly new place; it had come into 
being on top of the railroads' insistent demand for fuel; 
and as more and more track was laid down, as the country 
grew, Coal Center mushroomed. America grew up on the 
black gold. 

At first, in what later became Coal Center, there were 
only a few farms. This was an area up the river, about fifty 
miles from Pittsburgh, and it was the beautiful Appalach- 
ian hill country, where the mounds of earth lay like the 
upturned bellies of fat sows, where rippling brooks trickled 
down to the rich bottom meadows, where the cows found 
good grazing on the hillside, where a man could have, not 
too much, but enough, meat and drink out of the earth, 
and sometimes a deer to be killed in the pine woods. 

Into this place, a hundred years before, had come the 
Scotch-Irish landless; they were tall, hard men who pushed 
into the Indian country and built themselves houses of logs 
and earth, and cleared the forest away for farms. They 
were men with a fierce sense of liberty and independence, 
and in the Revolution they, who were called the woodsy 
folk, took their long hunting guns, formed themselves into 
a brigade, and fought in the Pennsylvania line of the Con- 
tinental Army for six uninterrupted years. They did not 
go back to their plowing and their planting, and during 
those war years, there was great suffering in the Mononga- 
hela Valley. But finally, the war was done; they went back 
to their farms, and the bucolic progression of their lives 
began once more. Generations passed, and they raised up 
their sons and daughters, and sons and daughters buried 
their parents in the good Pennsylvania earth. They re- 
mained basically the same Scotch-Irish stock, for the many 
succeeding waves of immigration passed over the Appa- 
lachians, looking for the richer and easier western prairies, 



and as their numbers increased, they cleared more of the 
land. Some of them went away to the cities, but many re- 
mained. They lived simple lives; in their churches they fol- 
lowed the same stern Protestant faith that their forefathers 
had brought to America, and in their churchyards the 
stones were marked with recurring names, Stuart, Mac- 
Gregor, Cameron, Lynn, MacKee, Williamson, Angusson, 
McDonald, Bruce— those and a dozen more names, over 
and over, from generation to generation. Sometimes, flood 
interrupted their lives; sometimes war, sometimes a plague 
of disease; but they were a sturdy stock and they endured 
and increased. 

And then, in the late sixties, it was discovered that there 
was coal under the green buttocks of their hills. That 
wasn't merely a local manifestation; a similar process went 
on in Ohio, in Illinois, in Wales, in Belgium, and in Ger- 
many. But to these Pennsylvania farmers, it was local and 
unique. Men came into their valley and bought land. Over- 
night there was more hard money present than the valley 
had known in a century, and good money was paid to those 
who would work in the shafts— more cash for a week's work 
than a farmer saw in a whole year. And with that money, a 
man could buy incredible things, slick-action guns to re- 
place their old squirrel rides— and who could live without 
such a gun, once having seen it?— bright goods for dresses, 
sweet candy, canned goods with a different taste, uphol- 
stered chairs, such as no one in the valley had ever owned, 
high-heeled shoes for the women, ready-made dresses, and 
so many other things that it would be impossible to list 
them all. Not only that, but one did not have to make a 
difficult trip to Pittsburgh to buy; no sooner had the com- 
pany begun to sink the shafts than they opened stores right 
there in the valley, and the stores had stocked shelves six 



feet high. The first farmers who had sold out to the coal 
company walked around with pockets that bulged with 
cash and silver, and after they had bought everything they 
could see that they wanted, they still had money left, so 
the company opened a bank for them, and men from the 
company spoke to each farmer, convincing him why he 
should deposit his money in the bank. 

The farmers in the hills and up and down the valley 
heard the news and flocked in to see; when they saw what 
their neighbors had bought, they turned green with envy, 
and all the way back to their farms their wives nagged 
about what the others had and they didn't have. Days went 
by and they resisted their wives' nagging, but even so they 
were remembering the fine new Winchesters, the beautiful 
hunting boots, the silver spurs, the checked shirts, the 
Stetson hats, the cases of rings and brooches and necklaces 
—because a man wants to give things to a woman he cares 
for, and when his neighbor gives and he can't, it eats into 

Then men from the company made their way into the 
hills. They had a proposition for the farmers, a proposition 
that was beautiful to hear and simple to understand. There 
were days when a farmer had a little time on his hands; 
suppose they signed up to work in the shafts on those free 
days? They would be well paid, and the company was will- 
ing to give any farmer who signed a contract an advance 
bonus of fifty dollars. Of course, it was not really a bonus; 
it would be deducted from their pay, but slowly, just a few 
dollars a week, and look how high the wages were! What 
farmer could resist such an offer as this; not only did they 
sign, but their sons signed, and every company agent rode 
out of the hills with pockets bulging with contracts. So the 
hill farmers came in and bought as well as the valley farm- 



ers, and, soon after, they came in to work in the shafts. And 
what the company men had said was true; they were well 
paid for their work in the shafts; only a dollar or two was 
deducted to repay the original debt. Not only that, but 
when a farmer had to go back for plowing, the company 
man in the store opened a big ledger and said, ''Sign here, 
and you can have anything you want on long-term credit." 

Never had the valley dreamed of such prosperity. In- 
deed, some of the farmers decided not to go back to their 
farms for the plowing, but to work the year round in the 
shafts where they could make twice what anyone could on 
a farm. And to make it easy for them, so that they would 
not have to kill themselves trudging to their farms and 
back, the company put up a line of wooden houses next to 
the store. It's true that these houses were each attached to 
the next, that they were built out of green wood, almost 
paper-thin, and that each contained only three rooms; but 
they were painted bright green and red, and they rented 
for a ridiculously small sum, on the average of three dol- 
lars a month per house. It more than made sense to live in 
them, and after the first batch of houses were rented, the 
company just kept on building, for more and more farmers 
saw the practicality of living in town. 

Nobody was surprised when the company built the 
saloon. There had been a tavern in the valley where yon 
could buy hard cider, and certain individuals dealt in corn, 
but this was the first saloon. In the past, drinking had been 
a thing for parties, or infares as they called them locally, or 
something before dinner to whet one's taste. The faith of 
these folk did not hold with drunkenness, and liquor did 
not go well with work in the fields. But men found that 
after ten or twelve hours in the shafts, there was a hunger 
that only hard liquor could ease, and there was not much 



protest when the company brought in the first saloon, or 
the second, or the third. It is true that old Pastor Mac- 
Nulley raged about the wages of sin, but the wages of coal 
mining were something you could put your hand on— and, 
for some reason, the farmers felt they were not to blame. 
MacNulley blamed them; but they had seen this thing 
happen in such a way that no human being could resist, 
and as MacNulley continued to preach, church attendance 
fell off. 

But no one could blame the company either. During 
those first two or three years, the company was very, very 
good about everything. Take the saloons; the men found 
it hard to tell their wives that they had spent a dollar or 
two in one evening drinking, so they were grateful when 
the company opened ledgers in the saloons, and all one had 
to do to get a drink was sign his name. For that reason, even 
the God-fearing men did not protest too hard when the 
company began to bring in girls and make a brothel a 
subsidiary of each saloon. By now, several thousand fam- 
ilies were living in lines of wooden shacks in the valley, 
and in spite of the high wages, most of the families found 
that they somehow could not quite make ends meet. On 
the farms, a shortage in terms of food was unknown, but, 
naturally, they had all sorts of things here that they did 
not have on the farms. Rather than give this up, they mort- 
gaged their farms. In this too, the company cooperated, 
and the representative of the company bank handed out 
mortgage money right and left. A new wave of prosperity 
hit the town, which was now called Coal Center, but hard 
on it the people discovered that somehow they were losing 
their farms. Short-term, high-interest mortgages turned 
them into workers overnight, for by the time a thousand 



dollars of mortgage money had been used to pay store and 
saloon debts, very little was left. 

After those first few years, a change began to take place 
in the manner of the company representatives. Now, in 
everything they said, they made vague reference to the 
owners back east; the owners ordered this and that done. 
Bad times had hit the country. The rent in the houses 
went up to five dollars a month; the owners did that be- 
cause of bad times. Week by week, wages were lowered; 
the farmers, who were no longer farmers, were, given to 
understand that now there was more than enough coal, 
and the only reason the company remained in the valley 
and continued to sink shafts was to keep the people from 
starvation. But this must not be a one-sided thing. The 
people of the valley must cooperate too. They must not 
grumble because wages dropped. They must not spread 
these ridiculous rumors that in Pittsburgh prices were 
very much cheaper. Didn't they know that it cost money to 
haul the stuff in from Pittsburgh? 

But even if the people did grumble, there was not much 
more that they could do. In the time of a decade, their 
world had changed marvelously, and they were a part of 
the change, and because their farms were like a dream^ 
now, they accepted the change more or less passively. The 
town was a large community now; it had three newspapers 
and stores and there were new saloons the company didn't 
own. It had habits of its own now. Morning began with a 
shrieking steam blast; out of the shacks came the men and 
children, down to boys of eight and nine, lunchpails in 
hand. A torrent of humanity flowed toward the mine. The 
very landscape they passed through had changed. There 
were new hills, black and ugly; the old earth was scarred 
and subdued. The torrent flowed down into the earth, and 



in the bowels of the earth they remained until darkness. 
Then the whistle shrieked again, and the earth gave up 
the old men, the young men, the children, now dirty, soot- 
covered, soul-weary in a dragging line that returned to the 

That was how coal came to the beautiful Monongahela 
Valley, and along with it came hunger. Wages continued 
to drop; each year there was a period of partial layoff, and 
every six or seven years, the mine closed down and there 
was no work or wages at all. These intervals were called, 
vaguely, bad times, and during these bad times the people 
became more fleshless than ever, babies wailed with hun- 
ger, and the mouths of the women grew thin and bitter. In 
the first period of bad times, the company bank failed; no- 
body understood how the bank could fail even though the 
company continued, but the bank failed and that was all 
there was to it. It was then that an agitator, as he was 
called, a heavy-set man with a foreign accent, came into 
Coal Center and began to talk about something called a 
union. But the people there had known few foreigners and 
resented them, and therefore nobody made much of a fuss 
when the heavy-set man was found down by the riverbank 
with a bullet in his head. 

It was always said that things couldn't become worse, 
but as the years went by, they did become worse and worse. 
Semi-starvation became a constant factor; the new genera- 
tion of valley folk had grown up small and disease-ridden; 
and along with everything else, hope was disappearing. 

It was in this situation, about a generation after the 
mine had been opened, that the miners came together and 
decided not to work the mine until wages were raised. 
They didn't know that what they were doing was striking 
because they didn't know the word then, although they 


learned it soon enough. And in retaliation, the company 
closed the mine. 

Word came through to the outside, and it was into this 
dying town that Albert Parsons came in 1886. 


It must be understood that Lucy Parsons was not alone, a 
woman bereaved eternally, one person weeping for the de- 
feat of a midwest politician, Altgeld by name; it must be 
understood in the context and fullness of things that if she 
wept, many wept, that if she made connection with the 
past and saw the future darkly, others did. Her actions, 
however, were in relation to a man hanged so long ago, 
and going through those things of his she had saved and 
treasured, she found a letter, one of those letters which he 
would write always, a letter in which he talked to her 
simply, reaching out for her strength and love, and which 
he began, always: 

My Dear Wife: 

... I reached the place about 2 o'clock p.m., and 
found myself a total stranger in a country town, 
which is a quaint, singular looking place, located in 
the narrow valley along the banks of the Mononga- 
hela and overshadowed by the towering hills of this 
region. The streets are dotted with groups of three 
and four men, coarsely-clad, grim-visaged, sturdy 
and solid; the weather cold and shivering; the pros- 
pect all but inviting. Not knowing which way to 
turn, I naturally inquired for the office of the Mes- 
senger. Once there, I inquired for the proprietor, 


Mr. Winehart, and at once introduced myself to 
him. I found him to be a young man of 35, a 
genuine type of the modern American— lank, thin- 
visaged, keen-eyed, quick-witted and resolute. After 
a few words, I inquired if he had received my note. 
He replied that he had, and had published it; upon 
request, I was handed a copy of the paper. 

The day was cold and depressing, the town un- 
inviting, and the man who stood before me chilly 
as an iceberg. Imagine, then, my situation when I 
read the comment on the announcement [of a mass 
meeting to be held by Parsons], which advised the 
workingmen of Coal Center to receive Agitator 
Parsons with— rotten eggs, and throw him into the 
river! I said to myself: "Steady, steady— there is 
hard work ahead!" 

"Well," said I, looking up and addressing the 
editor who stood nearby, "how is this?" 

"That's our opinion of agitators in this region," 
he replied. 

"I should expect such treatment from the coal 
syndicate," said I, "but not from those whom it 

I remembered that the Messenger was the only 
paper in the valley which stood by the miners in 
their long strike, and while wondering at its hostil- 
ity toward me the editor said: 

"Well, sir, these are our sentiments. These in- 
fernal agitators are a curse to us. They have ruined 
this valley. They have kept the miners idle, and 
they ought to be drowned." 

While he spoke his jaws were firmly set and his 
countenance determined and pale. 



"Well, sir," said I, keeping perfectly cool, "I 
have seen the papers of this valley abusing you be- 
cause you stood for the struggling miners, and I 
judged from it you were something of an agitator 
yourself," and I eyed him closely and I perceived 
I had fired a shot that struck him. 

"Our valley is ruined and these agitators have 
done the work." 

I paid no attention to this latter remark and 
began to read his paper. After five or ten minutes, 
I said to him: 

"I am a stranger here and, of course, don't know 
whether I can get a hall or not. Do you know of 
any hall?" 

"Yes," said he, "there are two, but I think Guiske's 
is the best." 

A smile of satisfaction ran over my face as I 
reflected and said to myself: "I have melted this 
man; he need not have given me this information," 
and on principle that "he who hesitates is lost," 
I said: "Do you know Mr. Guiske and would you 
spare the time to walk down that way?" 

"I don't care if I do," said he, and putting on 
his coat we strolled leisurely down-town together. 
Meantime, I was engaged in conquering my an- 
tagonist. I said nothing about Socialism, but asked 
questions about truck stores, coal bosses, miners, 
etc., etc. Walking three blocks, we did not find the 
proprietor of the hall in, and upon the invitation 
of the editor we strolled around the town to find 
him. This took another half hour. 

Well, then we returned to Guiske's store. An 
hour or more passed in casual conversation when 



the hallman appeared. Winehart engaged the hall, 
which is upstairs over two brick stores owned by 
the same man. He accompanied us to the hotel. 
Winehart said: "This is Mr. Parsons from Chicago; 
give him the best you have in the house, and send 
the bill to me." He remained with me until 1 
o'clock that night, and on bidding me goodnight 
said: ''Parsons, I made a mistake," and, holding my 
hand, he continued: "Count me your friend; put 
down my name for the Alarm. We must have you 
here again right away, and we will endeavor to 
raise the money and send for you from Pittsburgh 
before you come back to Chicago, when we will 
have over a thousand men to hear you." 

The impression created upon the audience that 
night was tremendous. It seemed to stun them. 
They acted as a man who has been travelling a 
whole day and felicitating himself that he is near 
his journey's end when it suddenly dawns upon 
him he has travelled the wrong direction, and must 
retrace his steps. He stops, sits down to rest, and 

Things are in a bad way in this region. There 
are no leaders among the wage slaves here. 

Oh, that I had the means! I would batter down 
the ramparts of wrong and oppression and plant 
the flag of humanity on the ruins. Truly the har- 
vest is great, but it takes time and means, and no 
great means either, but more than we have. But 
patience, patience. 

Your loving husband, 
January 26, 1886 Albert R. Parsons 



It was not this old letter that made Lucy Parsons weep. 
Her memories of the past were in the past, and along with 
them was the cutting edge of her sorrow. She wept because 
Altgeld had gone down, and because so much of hope had 
gone down with him. 


Part Seven 

w A 


man who argued the case for the union, Judge Kohlsaat 
indulged in philosophical reflection. The mighty are fallen 
and they become of low degree— or words to that effect 
occurred to him; and today, on the eleventh of March in 
1902, the world was neither interested in nor concerned 
with a Chicago labor lawyer, John Peter Altgeld by name, 
who was engaged in pleading the case of the local cabmen's 
union. Idly, Judge Kohlsaat wondered what the half- 
organized, struggling union could have paid Altgeld to 
make it worth his while to prepare long and scholarly 
briefs, and to stand in court for two long days arguing 
them. Certainly not half as much as a random corporation 
fee ten years ago, certainly not a quarter as much— perhaps 
nothing at all, for although labor leaders were accused of 
having vast sums of money with which to promote their 
activities, Judge Kohlsaat could never quite decide where 
all this money came from. 

Judge Kohlsaat was bored; invariably, injunction pro- 
ceedings bored him, for such a parade was made of rights, 
^ justice, constitutionality, precedent, custom, freedom, lib- 
erty, offense against liberty, and so forth and so on that the 
words lost all meaning; and in time it seemed that the 



very words were laughing at each other. And today, sev- 
eral times, Judge Kohlsaat had to restrain the impulse to 
say to the two lawyers, "Now look here, both of you. A 
dirty little combine of immigrant Irish and Central Euro- 
pean hack drivers have set themselves up against the Penn- 
sylvania Railroad. I repeat, the Pennsylvania Railroad. 
Such things can't be. Let us be reasonable, gentlemen. Let 
us stop all this wearisome nonsense. This is twentieth- 
century America." The impulse, however, was restrained; 
the long hours passed. The judge occupied himself vari- 
ously. Sometimes he glanced at the briefs, which rested 
before him. Technically, they were to have been read and 
digested before this session opened, but after years of read- 
ing lengthy briefs, they turned into bitter medicine, and 
the judge was content to glance at them now and then and 
check some of the statements therein contained against 
the arguments of the attorneys. The judge would follow 
the progress of a fly across his stand. He would straighten 
creases in his robe. He would hum to himself. He would 
doodle with his pencil. He had a long history of investiga- 
tion of means and methods of passing time, and in the 
course of a day he would inquire into all of them. 

Sometimes, he listened to what the lawyers were saying. 
Altgeld interested him; Altgeld had been a judge too; 
Altgeld had been governor of the state; Altgeld had smashed 
Cleveland— the judge blinked and stared at the dry little 
man with the rasping voice. That man! Life is something 
or other, the judge reflected. That man pardoned the 
anarchists. The judge wondered why. A miscalculation, 
perhaps, one of those brutal miscalculations that change 
the whole course of a man's life. How he must have re-, 
gretted it! Why, without that pardon he could have been 
anything, anything at all— lived in the governor's mansion 

3 x8 


all the rest of his days. Well, one man did this and another 
did that, and there was no understanding why. But run 
with the dogs and you become a dog yourself— and here 
was Altgeld. 

The judge's attention drifted once more. He found him- 
self staring into the sunlight that streamed through the 
windows. He remembered an appointment he had made 
and had not kept. He noticed that one of the spectators 
in the court, an old man who had wandered in off the 
street, was intermittently dozing; the gray head would 
travel forward and then snap back to the erect position. 
Let him sleep, the judge thought, that's his privilege. 

Altgeld was on his feet— "Your Honor!" 

The judge recognized him and set himself to listen, at 
least briefly. There was much about Altgeld that disturbed 
him; he found it hard to face those biting blue eyes. 

"Mr. Altgeld," the judge said. The attorney for the 
Pennsylvania yawned. The judge took out his watch and 
laid it in front of him. 

"I take exception," Altgeld said, "to a definition by my 
worthy opponent here"— nodding at the company's lawyer 
—"of my clients as a disreputable foreign element. I do 
not think it pertains to the case in question or to the facts 
so far presented. But since the matter has been brought 
up, and since it cannot be denied that so many members 
of this union were born in Ireland and Germany and 
Lithuania, and since they are engaged in a struggle which 
for them is a life-and-death struggle, and since I have re- 
ferred to them consistently as American, I would like to 
say a few words on this precise subject." 

The judge nodded. That was the difficulty with an in- 
junction proceeding; it provided no real limitations, and 
if one attempted to prevent either lawyer from straying, 



one could too readily be accused of prejudice. In such 
cases, the decision rests with the judge, not with the jury, 
since no jury is involved, and the godlike position of the 
judge obliges him to listen to the debate, whatever direc- 
tion it takes. Then, according to the briefs and the subse- 
quent arguments, he either sustains the existing injunction 
—which the Pennsylvania Railroad had obtained so readily, 
and which made it a Federal offense for the union to 
picket or carry on any agitation whatsoever— or he reverses 
it, or he indulges both the railroad and the shadow of 
justice by allowing the matter to go to appeal, a matter of 
many weeks, during which time the injunction is in force 
and the strike is broken automatically. 

"I've called myself an American," Altgeld went on, 
thoughtfully, "for a good many years—" He rested one 
stiff arm on the table, watching the judge, leaning forward 
a little, giving the judge an impression of great tiredness, 
an impression that he might fall, were not the table there 
for him to lean on. "—but perhaps without justice, since 
I was brought to this country in 1848, and I was born 
elsewhere. No, this isn't the first time I've considered the 
matter, nor is it entirely at the prompting of the Penn- 
sylvania Railroad's representative that I speak of it. I've 
asked myself, again and again, am I an American? Your 
Honor, I've even asked myself, what is an American? What 
do we mean by the term? What is its sacred import? Of 
course, that sort of an inquiry becomes puzzling and com- 
plex, and is apt to lead one up blind alleys, as, for example, 
when I hear a hack driver termed a disreputable element, 
since he was born in County Mayo, Ireland. But I cannot 
recall anyone stigmatizing Andrew Carnegie as a disrep- 
utable element simply because he was born in Scotland. 
Naturally, there is a qualitative element, but one wonders 



where it resides, in the man, the man's profession, or in 
the land of origin? One could argue the virtues of Scotland 
and Ireland—" 

The judge interrupted: "I must beg you, Mr. Altgeld, 
to keep to the point. I have no desire to throttle discussion, 
but there are some limits we must impose on ourselves." 

"I'm sorry, Your Honor. A circular route is one of the 
many burdens age imposes. I beg the pardon of the court, 
and I will attempt to hold more closely to the point. I was 
speaking of Americans— I can't help but mention some of 
my own feelings. I am in the habit of calling this my land, 
my own native land. That is not entirely correct, but almost 
so. Perhaps in no other country would a foreigner be justi- 
fied in referring to himself as a native, but that has always 
seemed to me to be one of the unique distinctions of 
America. This is my land; it has been so for as long as I 
can remember, and I think it will be so for whatever time 
is left to me. It is my land because it made me, it shaped 
me, it nourished me. The thoughts I think came from this 
land, and the dreams I dream came from this land. . . ." 

The judge was listening now; so was the lawyer for the 
Pennsylvania Railroad; so was Joe Martin who had just 
entered and slipped into a seat at the back of the court; 
so were the sergeants-at-arms; so were the few spectators, 
even the old man who had come in off the street to find 
a warm place to sit. 

" . . . Yet those men I represent in this court are accused 
of being foreigners. Their actions are called foreign actions. 
Their struggle, which is a very basic struggle, Your Honor, 
a struggle for bread and warmth, for life itself, is called 
an un-American struggle, and treason toward a country 
which welcomed them with open arms. 

"Well, Your Honor, I would not insult your intelligence 



or my own by reiterating the old saw about no white man 
being native to these states. We know only too well that 
the wealth and the goodness of this land came about through 
successive waves of immigration. Is there a land on earth 
that did not give us its blood, its people, its culture, its 
legends, yes, and its food, its way of work and play, and 
its knowledge of how to earn liberty and keep it? How 
can I define America except to say that it is a place where 
these things jelled, where the many techniques of liberty 
were put to good use. 

"But, Your Honor, is there a point where the struggle 
for freedom stops? I ask that in all seriousness, Your Honor 
—I ask it in relation to the fact that our Federal Govern- 
ment, through its appointed court, has decreed that this 
trade union I represent cannot carry on the fight for its 
people's existence. 

"I ask you to consider the question of what is American, 
Your Honor, and what is not. Is there any struggle where 
men fight for freedom, black men or white men, here or 
in the Philippines or in South Africa, that is not America's 
struggle? Can freedom lose anywhere without lessening us, 
without weakening us and sowing the seeds for our own 
destruction? Can we throttle the voice of freedom in our 
own land yet continue as a democracy? What, then, is 
American? It was here in America, Your Honor, that the 
first trade unions this world ever knew were formed, as 
long ago as the 1820's. I hear them call May Day, the 
workers' day, a foreign importation; but you and I, Your 
Honor, remember when the first May Day was created, 
here in Chicago in 1886. What insanity has brought us 
to a condition where all men who work with their hands 
are suddenly un-American if they should even think, much 
less act? I have already argued, at great length, Your Honor, 



perhaps at too great length, the case of the men I repre- 
sent, the reasons why they must combine and fight— or else 
cease to live. I take this time only to answer the attorney 
for the Pennsylvania when he charges that the hack union 
is a disreputable and foreign element. I only wish to re- 
mind him that disreputable and foreign elements, as he 
calls them, fought in our Revolution, and I, myself, was 
a member of a brigade, many of whose members were 
foreign-born, which marched off to preserve this Union. 
But if there is a point in our history where the struggle 
for freedom, for progress must stop, if we are to freeze still 
while the world goes on— then I agree that the word Amer- 
ican is misused. I think American is a word for life, but 
if we must talk only in terms of death, then it might as 
well go overboard and be consigned to the past." 

He sat down and began to shuffle through his papers. 
The opposition attorney made notes quickly and then pre- 
pared to rise. The judge looked at the sunlight, at his 
watch, at the rear of the courtroom, and then said: 

"Court will adjourn until tomorrow." The judge felt 
listless and uncomfortable, and he felt that what Altgeld 
had said would spoil the rest of his day and his dinner too. 
The attorney for the Pennsylvania, a brisk young man, 
already wedded to success, dumped his papers into his 
briefcase, shook hands with Altgeld, saying, "Fine show, 
Altgeld. I learned a point or two," and went out, just as 
briskly, head up, whistling as he left the court. The specta- 
tors filed out. Only Altgeld and a sergeant-at-arms and Joe 
Martin were left, Altgeld sitting in the band of sunlight 
which had crept across the room now and enveloped him, 
turning his graying hair gold, and boxing him with whirl- 
ing, dancing specks of dust, and Joe Martin standing at the 
rear of the court, lips pursed thoughtfully. 



As Joe Martin walked down the aisle, Altgeld sighed, 
stretched out his hands in front of him on the table, and 
leaned his head back. Martin came up quietly, but Altgeld 
must have seen him before, for now he said, "Hello, Joe. 
I didn't know it was your turn today," weariness in his 
voice and a trace of annoyance too. 

"That was an awful damn fine talk," Joe Martin said, 
ignoring Altgeld's remark. Some time ago, he and Darrow 
and Schilling and a few other close friends of Altgeld had 
decided among themselves that one of them would always 
go with him whenever he left town, knowing how sick he 
was and how liable to collapse. This pact was a secret 
among them and Emma, but by now Altgeld knew what 
was going on, and he resented being coddled, resented the 
implication that he was no longer physically responsible. 
Tonight, he had a speaking date at Joliet, and Joe Martin 
had been appointed to go along with him and see him 
through it. 

"Was it?" Altgeld said. "I guess I'm tired of hearing my 
own voice. I'm tired of courtrooms. I'm tired of being 
respectful to the bench—" 

Joe Martin sat down at the table and watched him. 

"Just tired," Altgeld said. 

"Do you want to go?" 

"In a minute— just— let— me— ease— out." His face was 
gray. Martin poured a glass of water from the pitcher on 
the table, and Altgeld gulped it down. 


"I'll be all right in a moment." 

"Emma said I should try to get you home for dinner— 



call off this Joliet thing tonight. What do you say, Pete, 
just a quiet dinner, the three of us, and then I'll give you 
a lesson in poker?" 

Altgeld shook his head. 

"Why not, Pete? You're all worn out. What in hell's 
difference will one speech make?" 

"No. I got to go, Joe. You don't have to come with me— 
I know what those meetings do to you. I'll be all right." 

"I'll be damned if I can see it." 

"Look, Joe. They called the meeting for me. They called 
it because I promised to come. It's a protest in support of 
the Boers in South Africa. All right, it's a long way off. The 
Boers never hear that we're supporting them. They just go 
on fighting and dying. But it's important— it's important 
for men to talk up, even if only one person hears." 

"It's just as important for you to rest," Martin said 

"Look, Joe— don't argue with me, please. I've had 
enough argument for one day. Do you have the tickets?" 

"I have them," Martin said. 


On the train, going down to Joliet, Altgeld wrapped him- 
self in his own thoughts. He still seemed to hold it against 
Martin that he was chaperoning him, and he answered the 
few words put to him gruffly and shortly. Then, until 
dinner, Joe Martin left him alone. In Altgeld's mind, the 
events and words of the day were leaping around, hammer- 
ing each other, disturbing each other, making chaos where 
there should have been order. His head ached, and even 
now, weariness ran through his body, like sand through 
an hourglass that is continually tilted, head to foot, foot 



to head. He tried to inject himself into the personality of 
Judge Kohlsaat, and when he did that the words spoken in 
the court sounded like the bleating of lost sheep. What 
were all the brave words he had spoken about America, 
about himself? A picture superimposed itself of Judge 
Kohlsaat trying to pluck a little hair from the inside of 
his nose, feeling so delicately and quietly and all the while 
attempting to look intelligent and interested; and all the 
while the words went in one of his ears and out the other. 
Why didn't he pull the hairs from his ears? Why didn't 
he put both his hands up to his ears and try to pluck out 
little, curly black hairs simultaneously? . . . The bench, 
the judge, the court, the power and the justice and the 
reason and the dignity and the motto: Let the truth come 
into its own, let the truth come into its own, let the truth 
come into its own; and to the clacking of the wheels it 
went, its own, its own, its own. He remembered how long 
ago it was that he had last told that favorite anecdote of 
his, about the blind men who had gone to know the ele- 
phant and what they had found. What had they found, 
he asked himself now? What had he found?— that a judge 
and a bench and a courtroom built in something of the 
Greek style could all be purchased by the Pennsylvania 
Railroad, or by Standard Oil or by Carnegie Steel, or by 
anyone who had enough money and was so inclined to 
purchase a court or a bench or a black robe or a congress- 
man or a woman or a bottle of whisky, or a handful of 
cigars, or this or that or anything, or the truth, or what 
appeared to be the truth, a reasonable facsimile, a likely 
image, a reproduction made so like the original as to defy 
imitation although it was an imitation, identification al- 
though it was an imitation, and imitation of an imitation, 
and imitation of the truth, and to the rhythm of the 



wheels, the truth, the truth, the whole truth and nothing 
but the truth. . . . 


He appeared to be dozing when Joe Martin said, very 
gently, "Dinner, Pete." 

He got to his feet, grinning. "I must have fallen asleep. 
Do you know, I guess I forgot to eat lunch." 


"I could eat a cow," he said. "Nothing ever seems to 
interfere with my appetite." 

They walked into the dining car and sat down. When 
the waiter, a tall, thin colored man, came over to take their 
order, he stared at Altgeld a long moment and then said, 
"Pardon me, sir, but you're Governor Altgeld." 

Joe Martin smiled and nodded. Altgeld, unfolding a 
napkin, held it in front of him and stared at it, without 

"I thought you was, sir. I served you four years ago. 
It's a real pleasure to see you again, sir." 

"Thank you." An old habit, a good habit for a politician, 
made him ask the man's name. 

"Sidney Jackson." 

"Well, thank you for remembering me, Mr. Jackson. 
Thank you." 

"Why you don't forget, sir. My God, you just don't for- 
get, that's all." 

That or the little nap he had made him feel better. 
He ordered a steak for the main course, and followed it 
with apple pie and cheese. Cigars and coffee finished it, 
and he leaned back in his chair, looking at Joe Martin, 
smiling comfortably. 



"Feel better?" 

"Much better. Joe, we're getting old. The body slows 
down. But you rest it a little, and then you feel fine. I feel 
fine. I could almost say I never felt better than I do right 
now." He considered a moment, then brought his hand 
down on the table with a crack that stiffened every person 
in the car. "I've got it— Joe, I took the wrong tack there 
in court, wrong as hell, pleading. I'm not going to plead 
tomorrow. I'm going to demand. What the hell, the case 
is gone anyway." 

"Demand an injunction on the Pennsylvania?" 

"You're right in principle." 

"Pete, how do you do it? How do you go on, year after 
year? Don't you get tired? Doesn't it beat you down?" 

"It beats me down. It's just a little harder to get up, 
that's all." 

They got off the train at Joliet, Altgeld leaning on Joe 
Martin's arm. Glancing sidewise at him, Martin saw that 
the gray pallor had returned. They got a cab and drove 
to the Munroe House. Martin had reserved a room for 
them, but when they registered at the desk, the clerk shook 
his head and said that if the gentlemen would only wait 
a little while, the room would be ready. 

"But I wired for a room hours ago," Martin insisted. 

"Yes, yes, but not any room. I can't put Governor Alt- 
geld into any room. The room I have for you, our very 
best room, will be ready in a little while." 

Altgeld shook his head, whispering, "Any room, Joe, for 
God's sake, tell them to give us any room. I can't stand 
here. I have to lie down somewhere." 



Joe Martin pleaded, but the clerk would not give in on 
his point, that Altgeld must have the best room in the 
hotel. Finally, Joe Martin roared, "Damn it, give us a 

Then, bewildered and hurt, the clerk gave in, and had 
them taken upstairs. Once in the room, Altgeld stumbled 
over to the bed and stretched out on it. He lay motionless, 
his hands flat on the bedspread, his blue eyes fixed on the 

"How do you feel, Pete?" 

"All right. I was just tired and I got a dizzy feeling. I 
guess I ate too much." 

Joe Martin pulled off his shoes. "You don't have to go 
through with it," he said. "You're sick— you're sick enough 
to be in bed. Why don't you tell them that you're sick?" 

"I got here, didn't I?" 

"Sure you got here. That's smart as hell. That's awful 
damn smart." 

"What are you afraid of, Joe?" Altgeld asked gently. 
"Are you afraid I'm going to die?" 

"Other men have." 

"I've been holding its hand, Joe. For years now— it's day 
to day. I've felt tired like this before. What difference does 
it make?" Then he was quiet. Martin sat there, staring at 
nothing at all. An old-fashioned clock on the mantelpiece 
ticked out the hours, hard and sharp, clack, clack, clack. 

About ten minutes later, someone knocked at the door. 
Joe Martin opened it, keeping his body between the crack 
and the room. 

"Mr. Altgeld can't be disturbed." 

A dry-faced man with glasses said, "I'm the editor of the 
local sheet. It would be a good thing for us to have an 
interview with the Governor." 



"He can't be disturbed," but from inside the room, 
"Joe! Who's there? Will you stop being such a damned 
old woman!" 

"A newspaperman." 

"All right, send him in. Stop that damned whispering." 

The editor came in, and Altgeld sat up, leaning on one 
elbow. "Make yourself comfortable," he said, "and fire 
away. It's got to be short. I'm due at the theatre in half 
an hour. Why don't you come there and listen, and when 
it's over, we can have a chat." 

"Just one or two questions. You condemn England's 
action in South Africa?" 

"As I condemn ours in the Philippines. As I condemn 
imperialism, whether it be British or American or German 
wherever it shows its ugly head." 

"And you believe the Boers are fighting a just fight?" 

"The man who fights for his native soil, for his home 
and for his family against a foreign invader— he fights a 
just fight. You don't have to look any deeper than that." 

"And you're going to speak about the Boer War tonight?" 

"That's right." 

"You'll be outspoken, I suppose?" 

Smiling, Altgeld said, "I haven't minced words since the 
last time I ran on the Democratic ticket." 


They stood in the wings, peering out at the house. The 
hall was jammed, and there was a line of people standing 
in the rear. In the wings behind them, the men and women 
of the Choral Society were clearing their throats and softly 
going, ah, ah, ah. Ex-Mayor Haley, officiating, bustled back 
to Altgeld and said: 



"I think we'll sit on the stage. I think that's better, don't 
you? Then the Choral Society can line up in front of us, 
and we can slip out behind them, if you want to." 

"Any way you say." 

The director of the Choral Society, standing behind Alt- 
geld, said, "But, mayor, we were to sing first." 

"Let me get it over with," Altgeld whispered. 

"Only it seems funny, the main speaker starting a pro- 
gram instead of finishing it." 

"Just let me get it over with," Altgeld said. 

"It doesn't matter," Haley shrugged. "Of course, it's 
customary for the main speaker to finish a program instead 
of beginning it. But if you want to speak first, I don't 
suppose it matters." 

Altgeld followed Haley out onto the stage. The audi- 
ence, impassive at first, broke into applause when they 
recognized him. A few in front rose, then a few more, then 
a wave until the whole hall was on its feet, clapping in 
tribute. Joe Martin stood in the wings, smiling with pleas- 
ure. A man could have a brother, or he could have a friend 
like Pete Altgeld; or a man could have half of the world 
and not know Pete Altgeld. The audience stood there, 
clapping, for almost a full five minutes. 

Haley said, "Here, I think, is a man I don't have to 
introduce to you. You know him. Illinois knows him. 
America knows him. I give you John Peter Altgeld." 

He began to speak softly. He put both his arms on the 
rostrum, leaning forward, talking to them, sometimes from 
the script he had in front of him, sometimes without look- 
ing at the script. For about half an hour he spoke to them, 
simply and straightforwardly, about imperialism, what it 
meant in human terms, what it meant when you stripped 
away the cheap glitter of Rudyard Kipling, and left the 



broken bodies of men and women and children. He told 
them of the concentration camps the British had built in 
South Africa. 

He paused, beads of sweat running down his brow. 
Reaching for his handkerchief, he almost fell. He gripped 
the rostrum again and mopped his brow. Then, the hand- 
kerchief still in his hand, he sought for words: 

"I told you about concentration camps. They solve 
nothing. Put a thousand or ten thousand men into them; 
they solve nothing. You don't break men by torturing them. 
You don't break man's spirit—" 

He hesitated and stared at his script, as if he were seeing 
it for the first time. By now the audience was aware that 
something was wrong, and he could hear the murmur 
passing from person to person. He made an effort, smiled, 
and said: 

"It's all right, all right. Sometimes, we get tired. That's 
natural, that's only natural. We are filled with despair. We 
ask ourselves, what is the good of such meetings as these? 
But there is some good out of them." He spoke slowly and 
forcefully, not looking at his script at all. "There is always 
good when men gather together for liberty— good when any 
man puts his shoulder alongside his neighbor's—" 

His voice trailed away. He continued to smile for a 
moment, then shook his head, as if he were puzzled. He 
turned back to his script and read, his tone low and 

"I am not discouraged. Things will right themselves. 
The pendulum swings one way and then another. But 
the steady pull of gravitation is toward the center of the 
earth. Any structure must be plumb if it is to endure, or 
the building will fall. So it is with nations. Wrong may 
seem to triumph. Right may seem to be defeated—" 



His voice trailed off and the last few words came out in 
a whisper that was barely or not at all heard. He smiled 
again and picked up his papers. He turned, walked back 
to his chair, and dropped into it. Haley rose and waited 
for the applause to finish. But hardly had he begun to 
speak when the audience saw Altgeld stagger to his feet 
and shuffle painfully toward the wings. Two members of 
the chorus caught him as he almost fell, and Joe Martin 
came running out to help him off the stage. Haley followed. 
Altgeld put his arm around Joe Martin and Haley sup- 
ported him on the other side. 

"Where can he lie down?" Joe Martin cried. 

Altgeld shook his head. Then he began to vomit. The 
two men supported him as long spasms racked him, through 
and through. 

Some blankets were found, and Joe Martin persuaded 
him to lie down. He lay there on the blankets, his eyes 
closed. Joe Martin took off his shoes, loosened his clothes, 
and then covered him with another blanket. 

Meanwhile, the meeting had broken up. People were 
gathered in knots, through the theatre and on the street 
outside. Haley was trying frantically to find a doctor, but 
it so happened that there was none in the audience. Then 
Haley realized that the state medical society was holding 
its banquet here, and that all the doctors would be there. 
He sent a messenger over there, and three doctors came 
back to the theatre. One of them was Cushing, an old 
friend of Altgeld's. He knelt down beside him, taking his 
wrist and feeling his pulse. 

Altgeld had lost consciousness now. Mutely, Joe Martin 
stood over him, watching for a reaction on the doctor's 
face. But Cushing shook his head, shrugged as he rose. 

"What is it?" Martin asked. 



"I don't know. It looks like a stroke." 

The other doctors agreed. They wrapped Altgeld in the 
blankets and carried him back to the hotel. There, the 
doctors worked over him, rubbing his wrists and ankles, 
using smelling salts. He opened his eyes very suddenly, 
like a man waked out of sleep. For a moment, he appeared 
puzzled, then said, "Hello, Cushing," just as if nothing at 
all had happened. 

"How do you feel?" 

"Fine. Just tired. Did I get through the talk?" 

"You got through it," Joe Martin said. "It was a good 

"I must have fainted." 

"You're going to get into bed and rest," Cushing said. 
He and Joe Martin helped him off with his clothes. Martin 
fumbled around in back of him until he demanded, "Joe, 
what in the name of Heaven do you want?" 

"Shirt buttons." 

"Well, mine button in front. And stop trembling. I 
told you I was all right." 

"Sure, sure, I know, Pete." 

Suddenly, Altgeld sat up, glaring at his friend accusingly. 

"Joe— Joe, you didn't think I was dying and wire Emma? 
Joe, you didn't do any damn fool thing like that!" 

"No, no, of course not." 

"Well, don't. You hear me? I have to be careful of her. 
It would be insane, frightening her out of her wits." 

"You'd better get some sleep," Cushing said. "Mr. Martin, 
I'll stay with him for a while. Do you have a room?" 

Martin shook his head. 

"Well, see about getting one— or are you going back to 
the city? He can't be moved tonight." 



Joe Martin walked over to Altgeld's bed, smiled at him, 
and then bent over and took his hand. 

"Goodnight, Pete." 


He went downstairs to the lobby then. At the desk, he 
bought a handful of cigars, lit one, and sat in a big leather 
chair, puffing it silently. Some reporters came in and spoke 
to the desk clerk. He nodded at Joe Martin, and they 
walked over and began to question him. He answered the 
questions, and finally they went away. 

It was quite late now, and still neither Cushing nor the 
two other doctors appeared. Sometime after one, the room 
clerk said, "Will you want a place to sleep, sir?" 

Joe Martin shook his head. 

The room clerk locked up his ledger and his cigar cases. 
He put out all the lights except two. Outside, two drunks 
staggered by, singing. The night porter, a colored man, 
stopped by Joe Martin and asked: 

"How's the Governor?" 

"I don't know—" 

"Mister, you tell him he's got the prayers of good people." 

"I'll tell him," Joe Martin said. 

The clock in the lobby said half past two. The little 
gambler lit another cigar. There was a long ash on it when 
one of the doctors came downstairs. Joe Martin stared at 

"As well as can be expected," the doctor said. 

"Will he live?" 

"I don't think so. You'd better notify his wife." 

"He doesn't want me to notify his wife unless I'm sure." 

"Then a friend of the family—" 

Joe Martin walked down the street until he found a 



Western Union office. He wrote out a telegram and sent 
it to Clarence Darrow. Then he walked back to the hotel. 
The other doctor, James Herrick, was waiting in the lobby. 
He and Martin stared at each other. Then Cushing ap- 

"He's dead," Cushing said. 

Joe Martin nodded. He stood there for a little while. 
Then he walked over to the chair where he had been 
sitting. He dropped down, his hands hanging limply, and 
he began to cry. He just sat there crying, and after a 
moment, the doctors became embarrassed, turned, and 
went back upstairs. 


His body lay in the Public Library building, and all day, 
from morning until late at night, the doors were open. 
Only once before in the history of Chicago had there been 
such a thing as this, and that was when the working 
people walked after the coffins of Parsons and Spies and 
Fischer and Engel and Lingg. 

Today, it rained. The cold March rain poured down, 
but they stood there in the rain. It was fifteen years since 
Albert Parsons had gone to his death, but someone who 
remembered would have thought that the same people 
were here, stern-faced, ageless, some in their Sunday best, 
some in their workclothes, the men coming off the shifts 
in the factories, the heavy-armed workers from packing- 
town, the farmers who had driven in, women, children too, 
who were brought that they might look at Altgeld's face 
before he was laid away in the cold earth, shopkeepers, 
clerks, girls who worked on the looms from morning until 
night to keep alive, but who could give up a day to look 



at the face of this man, the striking cab drivers, whose case 
he had pleaded, well-dressed men and men in rags, the 
people as broad as the people can be, coming out in their 
wholeness for one who belonged to them. 

Joe Martin was there. Emma Altgeld was there, and 
there, too, standing in the rain with the others were Bryan 
and Schilling and Darrow and Debs and Lucy Parsons, too, 
and many others. 

Two by two, all day long, they filed into the building 
to look at Altgeld. And then they went out into the rain. 







^8 65 Mil 

2/3. 6~ 

The American, a Middle Western main 

3 lEbB D3na 13b3